A Pressing Need for Space

On Market Days, our volunteers pull out and set up dozens of tables for use in the marketplace and as “desks” for client registrations. The Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center has given new meaning to “multi-purpose” rooms, using every inch of available space to support our operations.

We’re bursting at the seams and desperately need more space. Due to growing demand for food and services, our inadequate space results in long wait times for food, limited opportunities for community resource programs and added stress for clients and volunteers. We’ve nearly reached the limit of our ability to store, sort and process food weekly for up to 200 households, a number that continues to grow.

After much planning and anticipation, we are launching our Nourishing Our Community capital campaign. Our goal is to raise $2.2 million to build a new facility that advances our work to feed the hungry and offers programs that help break the cycle of poverty here in southern Arizona.

Launching this campaign was a huge first step for our organization. We’ll be meeting with many of our current donors and supporters to ask that you invest in our vision and future. And we are well on our way. To date, we have raised nearly $800,000 in initial donations and pledges, which means that we are over one-third of the way to our goal. We hope you’ll join our growing number of supporters.

We are extremely encouraged by your generosity and excited by all of the possibilities that a new facility creates for us. It means we’ll be able to expand the programs and partnerships of our Community Resource Center so that we can partner with existing resources in the community to provide more programming that helps individuals and families become self-sufficient and avoid duplication of services.

For example, we are planning to work with the Sahuarita Unified School District to offer sessions to help parents use their smart phones to access their children’s grades and assignments. We also will offer free income tax preparation assistance through Catholic Community Services, Stay and Play Parenting Training through the United Way as well as a number of classes, including workforce preparation, healthy cooking and nutrition. The possibilities are many. But these all require programming space.

We can’t do this without your help. Supporting these much-needed programs can make a meaningful impact in the lives of individuals and families. To learn more about our campaign, we invite you to contact Board President Penny Pestle at ppestle@cox.net.

Serving the Children and Families of Summit

By Sara Beyer, Contributing Writer

Several miles east of I-19 straddling the Old Nogales Highway is the small community of Summit. Although it has a population of just 2,300, the need is great. About 44 percent of residents there live at or below the poverty line.

As one of the founders of the Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center, the current Board Member and Treasurer, Jackie Smith has a keen understanding of hunger in southern Arizona, particularly in Summit. She is intricately involved in the food bank’s efforts to serve struggling residents there.

After discovering that about 96 percent of students at Summit View Elementary School qualified for federal free or reduced-cost lunches and no other food bank was providing assistance, we stepped in seven years ago and began providing weekend food packs through our BackPack program, which receives federal pass through funding from Pima County.

Then, realizing widespread need in the community, the SFB with support from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona began operating a satellite food pantry at Summit View Elementary School twice a month on the second and fourth Mondays from 2:30-5 p.m.

“The Summit area is a food desert,” said Jackie. “No local transportation or major grocery stores are within or close to that community.”

The SFB orders cases of food from the Community Food Bank, which delivers it to the school. A handful of school volunteers set up and arrange tables for the food pantry and several SFB volunteers unload the cases of food and help register individuals and families. SFB volunteers include Tom Lindmeier, Hathaway Cornelius and Dean Chausee.

Each time the pantry is open, more than 100 individuals come to receive food for their families with the average size of the family being five. This means we’re providing food to an average of 262 children, 282 adults and 36 seniors each time the pantry is offered.

“The families get different colored cards, according to the number of persons in the family. This allows them to choose enough food to augment or hold them over until payday,” said Tom. “There’s always a variety of fresh and canned fruits and vegetables along with dry goods, pastas, beans and bread available.”

Because of your support, we are able to address hunger in the small community of Summit, reduce suffering and offer hope to children and their families. 

2017-2018 by the Numbers

  • 150 volunteers
  • 22,000 volunteer hours 
  • Up to 200 families served weekly
  • 20% increase in client visits
  • $25,000 spent on milk and eggs
  • 700,000 pounds of food distributed
  • 560,000 meals provided from this food
  • 300 school children served by our BackPack Program

Meet Webmaster Whiz Leslie DeGrassi

By Jana Eaton, Contributing Writer 

Leslie DeGrassi wasn’t exactly a neophyte when it came to web design. The Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center Board Member and our webmaster was a major stakeholder in the web design for a non-profit technology association in Boulder, before moving to Green Valley full time three years ago. We are the fortunate beneficiary of Leslie’s skills and talents.

Using a website template, Leslie recently built and designed a new website for the SFB-CRC that would be much more user-friendly, informative and timely.

A third generation Arizonan, Leslie became involved with the food bank when serving as Secretary of The Good Shepherd Church’s Council. At that time, she also agreed to serve as liaison between the church and the food bank, and now serves on the Board.

What started out as a “closet operation” has moved to roomy quarters adjacent to the church and blossomed into a growing independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with 150 volunteers who serve up to 200 families each week.

Leslie has always worked for non-profits because her life mission is to make a difference. She is particularly impressed with the “sheer number of volunteers and how respectfully they treat their clients.”

“Volunteers get as much out of serving as do the recipients,” she adds. “It is so important as we age to engage in fulfilling, meaningful work. There are countless opportunities to volunteer here. There is something to tap everyone’s interests and skill sets.”

Leslie confesses to being a “stickler for accuracy” and notes that nothing frustrates website users more than inaccurate information or clicking on links that don’t work. To that end, she spends 2-3 hours a week refreshing the site.

“You have to pay careful attention to detail,” she says. “I just love it! It’s such a great fit for my interests and skills.”


Others have taken note of Leslie’s work as a skilled website designer. She is now designing a site for a paying client who operates a bed and breakfast. Yet, “I’m always available to drop everything and address our website issues and to add links to articles appearing in our newsletters, as well as update.”

Assessing website analytics and traffic enables Leslie to tweak pages to meet changing needs and make the site a valuable tool for client, volunteers, donors and grantors. With the click of a button, the site also can be automatically translated to Spanish to make information accessible to more of our clients.

Leslie and her husband, Larry Worster, bought their home in Green Valley in 2010 but only became full-time residents three years ago. Larry, the creator of Green Valley’s Got Talent, is as much of a “go-getter” as Leslie is. He is a retired music professor and professional musician and lends his talents to this project. As for the family, they have five children, who are spread “all over the country.”

In their free time, Leslie and Larry are avid birders and can often be found searching for species in Madera Canyon. Their vacations are planned around birding opportunities. 

Funds Raised from Jim Click Raffle Ticket Sales

Each year, local car dealership owner and philanthropist Jim Click sponsors his Millions for Tucson Raffle as a fundraiser for local nonprofit charities. By selling raffle tickets for prizes, charities can keep all of the proceeds that they raise from ticket sales.

Although none of the tickets that we sold were among the winning raffle tickets – which would have earned us an additional $2,500 – we’re grateful to Jim Click for this fundraising opportunity and all of our volunteers for their hard work and efforts.

From our participation in the raffle, we were able to raise $4,800 for the food bank! A special thanks and “shout out” to Kay Novak for wrangling the ticket sellers and to Sara and Dennis Beyer for selling the most tickets. 

SFB Receives White Elephant Grant

The Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center was one of scores of other nonprofit charities and schools to receive generous grants from the Country Fair White Elephant at its annual awards ceremony on Dec. 14. This nonprofit turns used goods into good deeds, and we are fortunate to benefit from their efforts.

The SFB was awarded a $25,000 grant, which will fund our executive director position, the only full-time paid position within our organization. Nearly all of our operations are powered by volunteers, who provide the equivalent of 16 full-time employees!

Since its inception more than five decades ago, the White Elephant has given away more than $30 million to local schools and charities and funds school scholarships. It raises funds through sales at its popular thrift shop. Last year, the White Elephant contributed a record $1.6 million to various organizations.

Thank you, White Elephant, for supporting our efforts!

New Partnership with Sprouts Takes Root

When we browse the food bins and shelves checking off items on our grocery shopping lists, we have unlimited freedom of choice. So, we pass over the can with a ripped label, the carton with a little dent and the apple with a slight bruise or blemish.

Managers at Sprouts also regularly look for those items in their stores to pull from the shelves and set aside for us. They first determine if they’re ok to use, and then gather all of the items to donate to the Sahuarita Food Bank.

Through their Food Rescue Program, Sprouts donates a huge percentage of the approximately 400,000 pounds of food given to us each year from local businesses. It’s all part of a philosophy adopted when the company was first formed.

Headquartered in Phoenix, Sprouts now boasts more than 300 stores in 19 different states. They emphasize healthy food options that include organically grown and produced products, and their goal is to achieve zero waste in all of their outlets by 2020.

That kind of dedication to their communities helps to create a great partnership for us.

“Sprouts Farmers Market Sahuarita/Green Valley opened February 28, 2018, and we established communication with the SFB the first week we opened,” said Store 42 Manager Randy Williams.

Managers across the country just like Randy select a variety of food items on a regular basis that they feel are perhaps not saleable but still safe—quality usable food—and their teams organize them for pick up by food banks or for free distribution.

Last year the company gave out nearly 18 million pounds of food, almost 4 million of it fresh produce, a clear indication of their commitment to nutritious food choices for their customers as well as for those families who receive assistance, much like those who shop at the SFB.

“We believe,” he said, “that we can meaningfully contribute to our local food bank items from our store that are no longer suitable for retail sale, but are still suitable for human consumption.”

Sprouts makes it easy for their customers to help during the holiday season as well, he added. In November and December shoppers can buy a Grab and Give Bag at ten percent off. It’s filled with non-perishable items that are donated directly to the food bank.

If you have never visited the store, it will remind you of an indoor farmers market with competitive prices, featuring many products not likely found in traditional supermarkets. They’re gaining a reputation as a retailer for cleanliness and freshness, coupled with environmental consciousness, while providing a service to those in need.

“At Sprouts, we are committed to ending waste and fighting hunger in our communities,” Randy said.

Story Time Sparks a Love of Reading and Learning

By Gail B. Frank, Contributing Writer

Studies show that 90 percent of brain growth happens by age five. Further, children who start school behind others usually don’t catch up and are more likely to drop out of high school, which can lead to a life of poverty.

The Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center’s early literacy Story Time program gives the children of our clients the opportunity to have early reading experiences that will build their vocabulary and reading skills and ready them for success as students when they begin school. Our goal is to provide disadvantaged children with a chance to read and succeed.

The program began in 2014 by a group of SFB women -- Lynette Marksberry, Barbara Buesing and Joan Ernst – who received training at the Tucson-based Make Way for Books literacy program. By reading aloud to children, we’re providing a foundation for future learning.

Anna Dethmers, a member of The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, served as the first coordinator for the program, which was offered during Market Day hours on Thursdays and Saturdays. She would read to up to six children at a time while their parents shopped.

As the food bank grew, so did Story Time.  Soon, two readers were needed to handle the growing number of children. Today, the program rotates among 20 volunteer readers who read to groups of up to 12 children at one time.  A recent “recruit” volunteer speaks Spanish, which will benefit some of our little ones.

While the children enjoy hearing the stories, a highlight of the program for them is receiving a book of their own to take home. “It’s an exciting day for the children when those brand new books arrive,” says Anna.

This year alone, the Friends of the Green Valley Library provided a $1,000 grant for books requested by children and volunteers, increasing the amount of grants made over the last several years.  Book donations also have come from Good Shepherd Church members, local Boy Scout Troup 301 – which held a book drive by pushing grocery carts around neighborhoods – the Green Valley chapter of the American Association of University Women and the Quail Creek Book Club.

This month, Anna turned over the reins of the program to former teacher and SFB volunteer Carrie Scheufler, who will serve as the new reading coordinator.

“I see this program as a special calling,” says Carrie. “I love reading to kids and think it is a sure-fire way to introduce good literature to children. To be able to give a book to each one to take home is an added bonus.”