Pictured left to right: Sandra Ramaker, Carly Toutant, Sheila Gustaveson drop off donations to the Salvation Army in Mesquite. (Photo: Angela Poole)
Have you ever heard of R.A.I.S.E. Mesquite or wondered what this group does? Well, you are not alone. People may not always know the group’s name putting together enjoyable community events like paint nights, cookie exchanges, or a ladies’ tea. Still, you have probably heard about the Halloween Parade. Although these events are some of the fun that R.A.I.S.E. Mesquite brings to our community, there is more to their story.
R.A.I.S.E. Mesquite is the acronym created for Raising Awareness Interest Support and Engagement in Mesquite. The group was unofficially started in 2019 and then chartered as a nonprofit in 2020. In the beginning, the group had the idea to create more kid-friendly options for Mesquite. The members at that time tossed around ideas like a skate park, graffiti wall, and planting flowers, but they soon realized they would have to start smaller.
Carly Toutant, the group founder, put a page together on a social media website for people to reach out and help one another with free items or donations for those in need. The group was able to help people who lost work during COVID, gather donations for the Salvation Army, and offer scholarships to high school seniors who were going into the medical field or teaching. Also, when the desperate search for face masks hit Mesquite, R.A.I.S.E. pulled volunteers together and sewed over 2000 masks in collaboration with “Just Serve.”
One of the first fun family-centered activities they put on was the Zombie Parade. When the Christmas Light Parade was canceled, volunteers stepped up and created the “Not a Parade Christmas Parade.” They also launched “Letters of Love” with the Virgin Valley Dance Club for Valentine’s Day during COVID. The group has always tried to add to the positive vibe in Mesquite and the surrounding areas.
R.A.I.S.E. Mesquite relied on donations from community members to fund all of this until last spring when they took over running the concession stand for Little League. They had more than 25 volunteers rotating shifts to cover the concession stand. They not only sold snacks but built relationships with players, families, and teams. The plan is to continue with this type of fundraising, but donations are still welcome.
When asked why she wanted to create this group, Carly said, “My dad was my example. He was always doing something nice for everyone, like starting fishing contests for kids or working as a volunteer fireman. My sister, Beth, and I learned to volunteer right alongside him. I volunteered with Girl Scouts, P.T.O., and worked with the town council in my hometown.”
A few changes in the group officers as R.A.I.S.E. grew and schedules changed. This created opportunities for others to join. Beth, Carly’s sister, was not originally in R.A.I.S.E. Mesquite, but she overheard their board discussing holding a parade. Beth had several years of experience being a parade chairman in her Ohio hometown and coordinated the Mesquite Days Parade for a few years. She jumped at the chance to be involved. Currently, the officers are as follows: President – Carly Toutant, Vice President – Beth Caplinger, Secretary – Angela Poole, Treasurer – Sheila Gustaveson, Board Members: Sandra Ramaker, Larry Wait, and Connie Young.
R.A.I.S.E. Mesquite hopes to continue serving the community they love for many years to come. If you are interested in volunteering with R.A.I.S.E. Mesquite, don’t hesitate to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.