Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center’s Nourishing Our Community capital campaign now has gifts and pledges totaling more than $1.3 million – 60 percent of our $2.2 million goal. Our organization’s latest major gift, a Freeport-McMoRan Foundation grant of $150,000, further solidifies the value this project brings to southern Arizona. Many people in this region are working poor; they have jobs, sometimes several, but they lack the money to keep their families properly fed.
The Freeport-McMoRan Foundation grant attests to SFB-CRC’s ability to address the needs of our community. This grant challenges the community to contribute an equal amount. The capital campaign is supported by several of the region’s best-known philanthropists because they understand the need. Sahuarita is a stable middle-class community, but thousands of people living here and in our neighboring areas need a hand.
Philanthropists also value the approach SFB-CRC is taking with this project. It is not solely focused on the nutritional needs of our clients. We want to give them resources to improve their lives through programs encouraging economic self-sufficiency, skills training, and more.
Along with the fundraising successes, building plans are proceeding quickly. By year’s end, we will receive final building drawings from Poster Mirto McDonald, the architect of record, and kitchen designer and fabricator AIS Industries. Permitting will follow. Many thanks go to Dennis St. John, a retired commercial architect who is also providing pro bono project management.
Now that our campaign has reached 60 percent of its $2.2 million goal, SFB-CRC has the strong community support needed to begin engaging with corporate and family foundations, along with community leaders and philanthropists. If you or your company has a foundation that supports projects like the SFB-CRC, please contact Curtis Keim at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are an individual with questions about supporting the project, contact Penny Pestle at email@example.com.
When Mary’s husband died a few months ago, she thought she would never get through it. Richard had always handled the finances, so it was an additional shock to learn that her income had been cut so much, down to less than $13,000 a year. With a 13-year-old car that keeps breaking down, an eyeglass prescription that needs to be filled, and HOA fees increasing again, she worries each day, wondering how she’s going to make it.
Denise is a single mom with two boys in school and a little girl who needs day care. The boys keep growing out of their clothes. She has to pay a hefty amount to a neighbor for the day care, and when the neighbor is sick or has an appointment, she has to scramble around at the last minute to find a replacement or she could lose her job. Child support is erratic if it ever comes at all, and the two jobs she works pay only minimum wage. She prays the car won’t break down and that they won’t be knocking on the door with an eviction notice any day now, since she’s starting to get behind on the rent. She knows her $22,000 a year income will only go so far, and if an emergency comes up or one of the kids get sick, what then?
Inez and Ricky cling pretty close to each other. After their abusive dad left and they watch Mom trying to keep the family together, Inez is now trying harder to keep her grades up and dreams of college, even though she knows her mom will never be able to help. She doesn’t like having to hassle her brother so much, but Ricky keeps getting into trouble and she wonders what’s going to become of him. He’s been suspended twice now, and she doesn’t like the guys he’s hanging with.
These are just a handful of examples of real struggles of real people right here in our community who rely on the SFB-CRC to make a difference in their lives, whether it’s food on the table, or resources to help them cope with parenting or challenges at school.
Nearly one in six SFB-CRC visitors is a senior citizen trying to make it on a low or suddenly reduced fixed income. It’s hard to fathom it when we witness the wealth and financial security among friends and acquaintances here. Many seniors have underestimated what they would need in retirement to pay the ever-increasing cost of bills and food and medicines. Others were left vulnerable when suddenly widowed or struck by serious illness.
Half of clients are under 65, many single parents barely surviving at minimum wage jobs, some out of work due to illness or injury, others battling chronic health issues or domestic violence. Day care and transportation costs can be an overwhelming burden on a working parent.
A third of those served by SFB-CRC are children. 455 kids at eight different schools receive weekend nutrition through BackPacks, a program that answers the call of educators who select recipients whom they think are hungry—sluggish or distracted in the classroom on Monday mornings. Kids who are hungry and lack nutritious food to function in school fall behind their peers quickly and many never catch up.
SFB-CRC continues to provide a necessary helping hand to this community and will able to do even more once the new building is ready, explained Board President Penny Pestle.
“Although these realities are so hard to bear for families, our food bank and community resource center is making a difference, and will have a greater impact once the new building is on line,” she said. “It will better serve the needs of our hungry community members and provide space for programs that will help them become more financially secure.”
“Like many volunteers, I am busy almost every day on food bank work, and I can get discouraged or tired or frustrated. But it is very important that we center ourselves on the realities—the lived experiences—of our clients and their families. It gives us the insight, sensitivity and energy to go on with this work. This focus on our mission provides meaning in the lives of all our volunteers, including me.”
Local residents will once again be able to look forward to participating in Produce Wednesdays.
SFB-CRC will be distributing free produce every Wednesday beginning November 13, 2:30 to 4:30 pm, at the Sahuarita Food Bank at 17750 S. La Canada in Sahuarita. The program runs through May 27, 2020, except November 27, December 25, and January 1.
Volunteers Irene and Steve Little and their dedicated team accept truckloads of Mexican grown produce from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona that are delivered from Rio Rico and Nogales because the produce is either too ripe or too plentiful to ship to distribution centers across the country. Otherwise it would go into a landfill.
There are no special orders, but generally there are three choices of produce, although sometimes just one. A small or large amount, according to preference, is available to anyone who would like to have it. Many pick up extra amounts for neighbors, shut-ins, or co-workers who need food assistance.
Visitors can take produce for immediate use, or process it for future use. It can be processed in a dehydrator, or frozen and stored, thereby allowing for healthy food choices beyond the local produce season.
“The Littles are committed to this program,” said SFB-CRC Executive Director Carlos Valles, “as they believe that nutritious food is a key to health and well-being,”
“We are lucky to get the produce,” he added, “and we are pleased to be able to share it with the community.”
Did you know you can receive an Arizona Tax Credit by making a gift to the Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center? Your gift will help us address hunger and its causes in our community. One in four families in our community lives in economic insufficiency.
Because we serve low-income community members, we are approved by the state of Arizona as a Qualifying Charitable Organization. If you pay Arizona income taxes, you can claim a 2019 tax credit for donations made before April 15, 2020, to Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center. The limit is $400 for an individual or $800 for a married couple filing jointly.
The Sahuarita Food Bank state code is 22050 and the credit is claimed on Arizona Tax Form 321.
To donate on-line, go to sahuaritafoodbank.org.
If you are writing a check, please make out the check to Sahuarita Food Bank. Our address is:
Sahuarita Food Bank
17750 S. La Cañada Drive
Sahuarita, AZ 85629
Thanks so much for your generosity!
Like many other clients at SFB-CRC, Dulce Molina wants to pay it forward.
“They always make me feel special,” she says, “and it makes me feel very good to be able to give back the benefits I receive.”
Dulce not only shops for her family, but for ten others she considers her extended family who find it difficult to be able to get to the food bank each month. Impressed with the quality of produce and quantity of food she and her extended family are able to receive, and the friendliness and respect the SFB-CRC staff and volunteers show her, Dulce asked how she could help others.
She works every Saturday as a shopper, helping visitors as they choose and pack up food, and accompanies them to help them load their cars. Shoppers who can make others feel comfortable and supported, and can help them through the process with the packing and loading are essential to the operation, especially when they are serving disabled clients or clients with small children. Fluent in Spanish and English, she also serves as a greeter and interpreter.
A number of clients also work as volunteers to give back. They say they don’t want to just take without paying forward for what they have received. Even some of those who are sentenced by a court to community service will stay on as volunteers. They appreciate the respect and support from the SFB community.
“She is someone who cares about her fellow community members,” observed Operations Manager Sue Eaton, “and she recognizes the opportunity to help the food bank serve our customers in a respectful and helpful way. We are very grateful for Dulce and others like her.”
Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center (SFB-CRC) and The Good Shepherd UCC are delighted to partner with each other in offering Stay and Play every Thursday, 1-2 pm, for parents and guardians of little ones under three, right here at the food bank.
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona is making this possible for everyone in the community. While United Way presents the program, First Things First funds it as part of its mission to enhance healthy development and learning for young children in the area. They focus on newborns to age 5, the prime time for brain development.
Stay and Play provides an opportunity for babies and toddlers to enjoy gently guided play based on age-appropriate learning principles. Parents can learn new ways of interacting with their children in play, as well as socializing and relaxing with other parents while waiting their turn to pick up food. It’s a great way for parents and guardians to connect with each other.
SFB/CRC family programs coordinator Sue Eaton observes that “the approach that United Way uses in facilitating this program is nurturing both the children and the adults. Some parent training can be condescending and make parents uncomfortable or defensive, but not Stay and Play. As I walk by, I see parents and their toddlers playing, laughing, and learning.”
“We are so pleased to make this available to everyone in the community,” adds SFB-CRC Board President Penny Pestle.
The estimate of the value of a volunteer’s contribution in America today is about 25 bucks an hour. You could probably double that when it comes to SFB-CRC volunteer Sara Beyer.
She does just about everything.
A retired English/Spanish instructor, she graciously steps into any role – greeter, food distribution, or interpreter, explained fellow volunteer Francie Ginocchio.
“Sara’s there at 7 am holding a cup of coffee or tea, welcoming and organizing clients for shopping. She facilitates the application process for new Spanish-speaking clients, explains the SFB process, and makes them feel comfortable about all aspects of SFB,” Francie said. “She improved and translated signs and handouts, such as client guidelines, in both languages.”
“One client told me she looks forward to seeing Sara when she shops,” added SFB-CRC Executive Director Carlos Valles, “because, as she said it, Sara makes coming to the food bank an enjoyable experience. She is always smiling.”
“She shares recipes, mentors new volunteers, guides clients, and will handle most any job” Carlos declared. “She is an incredible volunteer. In one day I saw her helping clients, mopping floors, distributing produce, and breaking down cardboard boxes. She is always willing to help where needed.”
Beyond that, Sara offers an unselfish and spontaneous commitment to the clients as a caring, compassionate human being, aware of the daily challenges they face.
“Every client, like every volunteer, has a story to tell,” she put it.
German was her first language as a kid. Bullied in school, not making friends, she remembers the kindness from her host family a long time ago when she participated in a language immersion program in Mexico, so she translates more than words to the clients she helps. She senses their agony and frustrations. Their stories of struggle touch her heart. Whether it’s someone’s loss of a family member, a parent’s nightmare with a suicidal teen, a single mom without an income, or a jobless man alone living in his car, she makes certain they know she is there to listen without judgment.
Recently retired, it became difficult to see their three grandchildren regularly because they are scattered around the country, so she and her husband Dennis looked for ways to volunteer. They decided two years ago to help fill in the volunteer gap SFB-CRC experiences in the summer after reading an article about a high schooler who helped summers.
“Should we quit when the snowbirds return?” she asked her husband. “Quit? It’s the highlight of my week,” he told her.
They have loved it ever since, and rarely miss a day. They also volunteer at Desert Hills Lutheran Church’s estate sales throughout the winter months, and Sara translates oral conversations and legal documents for Keeping Our Communities Together immigration clinic (KOTC) through Good Shepherd UCC. In the past 18 months, she has translated about 75 legal documents into English for immigrants who are legally applying for their green cards or wishing to change the legal residence of a family member.
Citing the friendliness and family feeling she gets from working with all the staff and volunteers at SFB/CRC, Sara is enthusiastic about her experience as an example for others who might be looking to volunteer.
“I would say come to the food bank and see what we do. Take a tour, put on an apron, and help for a day. Tired at the end of the day, you will have the good feeling of really having made a difference! You will enjoy it so much that you'll come back!"