Thanksgiving may be over, but giving thanks never is, particularly to the wonderful volunteers and supporters of the SFB-CRC.
SFB-CRC is so fortunate to have more than 200 dedicated volunteers. They provide the equivalent of 11 full-time employees with the hours of service they give to food bank visitors. That’s more than 22,000 hours!
SFB-CRC is also very fortunate to have generous donors to both operations and the Nourishing our Community Capital Campaign. Individual donors provided more than $100,000 last year, and grants and contracts exceeded $125,000. Pledges and donations to the building fund are at more than 60% of the goal.
SFB-CRC is preparing for a very exciting future with the beginning of construction of a new building in 2020. It will greatly enhance our ability to feed the hungry in our community and support them on their journeys to economic security. But, it could not be happening without every one of you.
With profound gratitude and heartfelt thanks to all volunteers and supporters, and Happy Holidays!
From the SFB-CRC Board: Curt Keim, Jackie Smith, Penny Pestle, Ann Striker, Nancy Ackley, Nathan Hall, Randy Mayer, Carlos Valles, Leslie DeGrassi
Among the 200 plus volunteers at SFB-CRC is a man who works tirelessly behind the scenes every week.
“This is a working board, not an advisory board,” he is apt to say, and Curt Keim exemplifies the kind of hands-on leadership it takes to keep an organization like this strong and growing.
The retired Moravian College Dean joined the SFB-CRC Board in 2014, becoming its chief grant writer and ultimately vice-president. He said he and his wife were looking for a solid connection to the community after moving here in 2013, so they tried The Good Shepherd, the original home of the SFB-CRC, and it fit for them.
“I approached the person who did grant proposals. The next thing I knew I was the new grant writer.”
Research and persuasive writing are second nature for a man who spent most of his adult life discovering and imparting the truth about Sub-Saharan Africa’s peoples and their cultural heritage. A shift from pre-med sparked his curiosity for cultural anthropology and history and, as he put it, “I just wanted to see the world.”
So, he juggled graduate school with living in Belgium to learn French and teaching at a boys’ school in Africa. He bought an old VW van in Amsterdam and fixed it up so he and his wife could travel all over the continent. He ultimately spent years, sometimes cycling from village to village, to seek conversation with elders in remote areas while arranging for translators to help him pursue his passion for the truth behind African history.
His work destroyed a lot of false perceptions about the cultures there. He eventually wrote a text, as well as another book on the history and art of the Mangbetu Kingdom for the American Museum of Natural History where he was a research associate.
He continues to research and write about his beloved Africa while logging 20 to 30 hours a week in his roles as board member and grant writer, believing that all of us who have talents and skills and the time should contribute where and while we still can.
“I think that people who have something to contribute should use their skills for their community. We need more leaders who can put their energy toward helping those in need.”
Curt also serves with the Southern Arizona coalition known as Better Together, which is committed to facilitating problem-solving and sharing information and ideas that contribute to the improvement of all communities in the area.
This very active SFB-CRC Board, he says, is not just setting goals and making decisions from afar. They’re involved every week in fund raising, managing, and making contacts.
“Board members have to devote a lot of time,” he explained, “and in order to write a good grant proposal, you really have to know about the nuts and bolts of what the food bank does.”
There are perhaps too few who take notice of the countless hours of unselfish devotion offered by volunteers like Curt Keim, but the organization could not survive without his sacrifice.
“There is absolutely no way that the SFB-CRC would have grown as it has,” declared Board President Penny Pestle, “without Curt’s daily commitment to seeking/finding, good governance, and excellence in fulfilling our mission.”
If there is only one thing we should learn from history, it is simply to not ignore the writing on the wall. Our society is aging, and that’s already creating real issues, not just for the elderly, but for everyone. Food banks won’t be left out, as they will likely see an increase in senior clients, and clients of all ages as well, since they will also be affected by the costs of caring for an aging population. Older people will soon outnumber children, and surprisingly the USDA has already labeled six million as food insecure, one in every seven in Arizona.
A huge Baby Boomer demographic is leaving the job market. That contributes to more jobs than can be filled. A smaller pool of workers increases demand, which promotes wage and price increases, and thus makes it harder for people on fixed incomes to remain financially secure. Fewer workers in the pool mean less tax revenue, which results in a greater burden on the government and non-profits to fund programs for those of any age in need.
Five million people 60 or over are living at or below the Federal Poverty Level. More and more are added to the list as rising health care needs and costs increase out of pocket spending. Pharmaceutical costs have skyrocketed in just the last few years, as elderly pay almost double than younger populations. 43 percent of seniors rely on Social Security for 90 percent of their income. 2.1 million receive less than $435 a month. A third have mortgages, with nearly 3.1 million owing more than the house is worth. Many are raising their own grandchildren. Nearly half of all seniors and 60 percent over 85 are considered financially vulnerable.
There are about a quarter million people over 60 living in Pima County. Half of them over 85 have chronic or disabling health conditions that require care at increasing cost in the face of continuing funding cuts for aging and adult services. Nearly a third of Green Valley seniors live alone. Many are widows who have lost their husbands’ pensions, or have significantly underestimated how far their Social Security checks will go in meeting their most basic daily needs. Green Valley has significant pockets of poverty, despite the financial well-being of most.
W. Mark Clark, CEO of Pima Council on Aging, testified two years ago at the U.S. Senate, seeking more funding for this issue, that “elders retreat inside, afraid to venture out, isolated by fear of falling, frailty, language and culture barriers, and don’t ask for help for fear of being marked as unable to be independent.”
The more we can encourage and help seniors in this county to remain independent, then obviously the less burden there will be on programs that keep them dependent. 3 of every 5 seniors in this country who are eligible for SNAP benefits (food stamps) don’t even apply. Though many are embarrassed at the thought of using a food bank, seniors can benefit from SFB-CRC food distribution if there is a strategy to identify them and help them get what they could use.
In January of 2019 SFB-CRC began participation in CSFP, a federal program for people over 60 who fall below 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Recipients receive forty pounds of non-perishable food and two pounds of cheese once a month, and are also eligible for regular food bank distributions. 98 individuals were registered within the first few months. One couple shared that they had no food in the house, and the husband cried when told they were eligible.
“Our clients are so thrilled to be getting the additional 40 pounds of food,” said Operations Manager Sue Eaton. “It gives them juice, milk, protein, and cereal, and they love the cheese.”
Another couple in their 90s and poor health was overwhelmed and grateful, she said. Another had just lost her husband and now is living on $13,000 a year with no hope of assistance from her children.
All of us in a free and compassionate society need to consider the ramifications of what will become the largest aging population in history, and what we at every level, in every part of the country, can do to make sure no one goes hungry.
The Nourishing Our Community Capital Campaign added two new partners to help advance the Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center’s efforts to build a new and efficient facility for its work.
Tubac resident and local publisher Katherine Clancy has become a recent donor and supporter.
“I am thrilled that she has joined our team,” said SFB-CRC Board President Penny Pestle. “She believes in our mission and is willing to help us identify and reach others who align with our mission of meeting nutritional needs and advancing self-sufficiency.”
A second partner is retired La Posada CEO Lisa Israel, who was instrumental in securing a campaign pledge of $50,000 per year for three years for a total of $150,000 from the La Posada Foundation.
“We are so proud to support SFB-CRC’s campaign,” Israel said in announcing the pledge last spring, “and to provide this leadership gift. Hunger and its underlying causes in our community must be addressed, and this is the mission of SFB-CRC.”
The Nourishing Our Community Capital Campaign has reached sixty percent of the $2.2 million goal with gifts and pledges like this one, now totaling more than $1.3 million, Pestle reported. “We are very grateful that Lisa Israel remains a strong supporter of the SFB-CRC, and is opening doors for future donors.”
As the Mexican winter growing season gears up and huge amounts of produce make their way north, Produce Wednesdays at SFB-CRC continues to achieve the goal of providing healthy produce to as many in the community as possible.
Between November and May or June, sixty percent of our winter produce comes through the Mariposa port of entry in Nogales, Arizona. About six million pounds of the six billion pounds coming across is either too ripe, perhaps considered unattractive, or amounts to more than is needed for the market. That creates a bounty of free produce here for anyone who loves it and wants it, and keeps it from being thrown away.
The migration started slowly with pumpkins the first week and then 600 watermelons the second. Tomatoes, peppers, green beans, mangos, eggplant, and all manner of squash will appear in the weeks ahead.
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona gathers it and hands it over to local food banks, which prevents the inevitable dumping into the Rio Rico landfill. SFB-CRC distributed 127,000 pounds last year to visitors, many sharing it with neighbors and friends and church members.
“Rescuing produce is truly a win/win proposition,” said SFB-CRC Board President Penny Pestle. “Our food bank visitors get lots of healthy produce, the SFB is able to receive food to feed those who are hungry, and the food distributors do not have to pay $40 per ton to throw away food!”
SFB-CRC is a non-profit with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status because its mission furthers a social cause or public benefit. Yet, to be successful it must be run like a business. The organization pays employment taxes, abides by state and federal workplace rules, and its clients are its customers.
As in any business, administration is critical. With 1 and 2/3 staff, and more than 200 volunteers equal to 11 paid staff, SFB-CRC has a payroll and does performance reviews, 990’s, and financial audits annually. There is continuous review of management practices, short and long-term planning, analysis of financial implications of programs, and evaluation of customer service and viability of all the organization’s undertakings. Researching and writing and tracking grants are essential in creating a capacity to serve the community now and in the future. Innovation is also essential in meeting the needs of the food bank.
A volunteer board raises funds, communicates with donors, and researches and implements programs to meet the needs of the community. Most of the work is done in collaboration with community partners. The Board has built relationships with a myriad of organizations and businesses over the last ten years, all with the intent of providing a sustainable lifestyle for SFB-CRC recipients.
Finding, preparing, and distributing more than a million pounds of food each year is a challenge. SFB-CRC acquires food from 14 different locations, and is always looking for new partnerships. Partners include Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Sprouts (5 days/week), Duval Mine Safeway, Community Food Bank Agency Market (twice a week), GV Gardens, Arivaca Garden, Caring Ministries, Trade Mitigation foods from the Federal Government, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, and Mexican produce from Ciruli Brothers and the CFBSA. The food bank also purchases milk and eggs that are distributed to every recipient who visits, and buys an annual membership to GAP Ministries for weekly food pickups.
SFB must consistently recruit, train, recognize, and retain more than 200 volunteers who support programs, many who sort and handle canned goods, process tons of produce, provide table space, and help recipients shop on market days for their families. Others work with registration and the screening process for SNAP and CSFP programs, plus a special room is set aside for children to have a reading corner, with books they can take home to keep. They also work with community partners on family support programs that benefit children and parents.
Much like a business, there is so much that must be done each day to keep a non-profit operation like SFB-CRC running smoothly so that it can fulfill its mission in providing a lifeline for those in need.
Doing one’s own taxes can be difficult, so many resort to using commercial tax preparation companies. For low-income individuals and families, this is one more expense in a tight budget. Low-income taxpayers pay at least $150 for the simplest return at a commercial center, which is a significant percentage of their taxes owed or expected refunds.
Thanks to the IRS, AARP United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, as well as Pio Decimo Center of Southern Arizona, there are great options for free tax preparation for those who earn up to $66,000.
For many years, the IRS has focused on developing community capacity to assist low-income taxpayers. In this case, the IRS really is here to help by training volunteer tax preparers, making sure that they are not only familiar with the tax software, but also know about the possible tax credits for those of limited means.
One of the twenty-five volunteer-staffed sites organized by the Pio Decimo Center of Catholic Social Services is located in Sahuarita at the Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center. This center will be open beginning January 23 from 12:30-4:00 pm. Email Sue at email@example.com for more information. Other local organizations operating free volunteer tax preparation assistance are operated by AARP at La Posada, Pio Decimo’s center at BMO Harris Bank, and United Way in the Tucson area.