AWC student-athletes lend a helping hand to local charities.

AWC student-athletes lend a helping hand to local charities.

Yuma, AZ-In a sluggish economy, many local non-profit organizations face budget cuts and staff reduction.

But today, hundreds of student-athletes from a local college were up bright and early to help various organizations get back on track with unfinished projects.

Arizona Western College student-athletes lend a helping hand to many non-profit organizations across the Desert Southwest.

"The day of champions is an amazing thing for us, it really helps us to get to a lot of those projects we've been putting on the back burner and haven't been able to get to," John Abarca, program manager, Yuma Community Food Bank.

It was AWC's seventh annual, Day of Champions.

Nearly 400 volunteers worked on 40 different community projects throughout Yuma, Somerton, San Luis, Wellton and even in the Imperial Valley.

"Well today some of the crews are painting some of the offices, something as simple as that, really becomes difficult for us sometimes," Abarca said.

Volunteers packed food boxes and stocked shelves.

Yuma community food bank officials said the boxes put together at today's event will help meet a month's demand in Yuma County.

"Having this many people come in at once and get to work and start doing all of the things they're doing this morning really makes a big difference to us and we really appreciate it," Abarca said.

Yuma Conservation Garden officials said the garden runs on a $10,000 budget a year.

Volunteers cleaned up its famous barrel cactus "Y" cleaned up, trimmed its trees watered its plants.

Strong athletes also assembled cement tables and benches for visitors.

"This gift they have given us is tremendous to have," Sheryl Christenson said. "Volunteers come out here in the heat and work, we are so grateful."

At Habitat for Humanity, the extra man-power helped sort and recycle aluminum cans.

AWC's athletic director, Jerry Smith said its a great opportunity for athletes to network with some of the corporate people in town and also learn to give back to the community.

"They're coming into the community and the community provided them a lot of opportunities for them," Smith said. "A lot of tax dollars help them get an education but also (would like people) come to the games and support them."

 After a hard day of work, all volunteers and AWC athletes enjoyed a free lunch at Outback Steakhouse.

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