It always warms our hearts when Youth On Their Own (YOTO) alumni reach out to support current YOTO youth! Having overcome so many obstacles themselves, YOTO Alumni embody the spirit of perseverance and resilience shared by our current YOTO youth!

Several months ago, Roger Biede, Secretary of the Masonic Charities of Arizona, asked Freemason and Masonic Lodge member Eric Dupree to recommend a Tucson-area nonprofit for the organization to support. Without hesitation, Eric suggested YOTO!

Thanks to Eric’s endorsement, Roger reached out to YOTO to share a grant opportunity. We applied, and were awarded a $1,500 grant to support youth experiencing homeless in our community!

What makes this story extra special is Eric’s connection to YOTO. As a teenager, Eric found out that he was going to be a father. When his son was born, he transferred to Teenage Parent High School (TAP). Eric and his son’s mother were raising their son and living on their own, but they understood how important it would be to graduate high school. Through TAP, they found out about YOTO, enrolling as YOTO students in 1993. After two years in the program, both he and his son’s mother reached their goal of high school graduation!

As YOTO students, Eric and his son’s mother both received monthly financial assistance (stipends) for attending school regularly and getting good grades. Eric recalled, “Being a teen parent was tough. We were trying to work and go to school at the same time while parenting. Having that little extra money each month to help with groceries or gas, it may seem small, but looking back on it, it was huge for us!”

Today, Eric works at Sysco Food Services of Arizona, and as a member of both the Masonic Lodge and the Shriners, stays active in our community. Having become a Freemason in 2013, Eric shared his reason for wanting to join:

“I had been around a lot of people that were Freemasons and they were just good people. I liked how they were always giving back to their community, they were always doing charity work and they weren’t really bragging about it – they weren’t looking for recognition. They were just doing it because they wanted to do it. That was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Now that Eric has reconnected with YOTO, he’s very interested in giving back through his continued work with the Masonic Lodge and by hosting future fundraising events in support of YOTO youth. “I just think it’s a fantastic program! In my opinion, YOTO is the best local charity in southern Arizona!”

We are so happy to have Eric, Roger, and the Masonic Charities of Arizona in the YOTO Family! Their generosity means that youth experiencing homelessness in our community will have the assistance and support they need to persevere and achieve their goals of high school graduation – just like Eric! 

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