United Way greenlights Safford Theatre completion, moves to quarterly grant cycle

- David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central

SAFFORD — The United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties announced a new plan to fund grants in 2021, as well as funding for a major project in Safford’s Downtown.

The local United Way is moving to a quarterly grant cycle, giving applicants about four weeks to submit funding requests. Deadlines will be Feb. 1, May 1, Aug. 1 and Nov. 1, and awards will be announced six weeks after each deadline.

In addition, United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties announced it approved a grant for $150,000 to the Safford Downtown Association to complete the restoration of the historic Safford Theatre.

“What I think really swayed the decision was how far they are to being completed,” said Adam O’Doherty, CEO of the United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties during a recent appearance on Voice of the Valley.

“When we did a tour there and looked around — I remember going in there the first time (and) it’s a pile of rubble; legitimately a pile of rubble — and then you go in there now (and) now you can really see this whole thing unfolding and the magic it can bring to Downtown,” he continued. “So we all got excited about it, and we’re like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s finish this. We’re at the 10-yard-line, let’s get to the endzone now and finish this.’ ”

The project, started in 2017, consists of three phases:  the front third of the building — which includes the façade, lobby, balcony, upstairs, restrooms and the interior — is being rebuilt to the style it had in 1936. The center of the building will be a three-tiered outdoor patio area covered with shade sails, and the rear third of the building will house the enclosed stage area.

With funding secured, the project is expected to be complete and the theatre open to the public by the summer of 2021.

Editor’s note: Reporter David Bell is a member of the Safford Downtown Association board.