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August 2023

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Reaching Our Rural Communities

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Living in rural areas can create its own set of unique challenges. Rural residents often struggle to find good paying jobs, and for many it can be tough to feed their families. Since SFB-CRC was created, we have been aware of those concerns in outlying communities. A good barometer of the problem is the number of students who receive Free and Reduced Price Meals. For example, 78 % of Sopori Elementary School students in Amado are eligible for them. Sadly, 88% of Summit View Elementary students qualify.

Many residents in Summit, Amado, Arivaca, Tumacacori, Elephant Head, and other even smaller hamlets fight daily battles against poverty, and we want to be there for them as much as we can. That’s why SFB-CRC is excited to launch its Rural Initiative Project Azul (Proyecto AZUL) to bring food, job skills development, and other programs and services directly to these and other communities that need them. SFB-CRC Executive Director Carlos Valles has been meeting with board members to create a program that allows us to do what we do best right where people live.

“We have been talking about transportation and distance being a huge barrier to rural communities’ access to human services and workforce development,” Carlos explained. “This program allows us to bring the resources these communities need directly to them.”

Paid for by grants from the Del E. Webb Foundation in Prescott (they also provided generous support for our new building) and Banner University Health Plans, a heavy duty Ford F450 will be towing a 46’ mobile service unit out to these areas. Rural visitors will step into the SFB-CRC mobile office for assistance in signing up for all State of Arizona safety-net services. In addition food, including produce and other highly nutritious items, is being made available to them. We will offer computer classes, an English language acquisition program, nutrition classes, Google IT support certification and augmented reality welding programs. They will receive anything “portable” that is needed and can be provided.

We also received an H.S. Lopez Family Foundation grant—Humberto Lopez is a developer and philanthropist from Tucson—which is providing salary support funding for our community resource center program manager Sofia Castro and our rural program coordinator Nathan Watts. Nathan has been on the road these past few months, traveling from Arivaca to Gu Vo on the Tohono O’Odham Nation to Bisbee to Tombstone.

“Over the summer I’ve been able to meet with several community partners,” Nathan said, “as we continue a needs assessment for rural outreach in Southern Arizona. It amazes me how similar the needs are in these areas, but how diverse the culture, norms and dynamics of a place can be.

“For example, I’ve talked with librarians who have plenty of space to offer classes but they don’t have steady enough internet to do online learning. But the internet can be excellent just a few towns over, and then the library is less than a thousand square feet. It’s not a single answer to a simple problem, but I’m happy with the energy and possibilities we are providing these communities as we explore ways to enhance day to day living in rural Arizona. Our mobile rural program can help address these needs.”

We are proud of all our staff and volunteers at our new building and the services we provide for all those who come to us for assistance, but sometimes you need to go where they are. This new rural program is just another way SFB-CRC continues to expand its outreach, and strives to remain a powerful force in feeding the hungry and delivering job skills and other programs to help residents all over Southern Arizona reach their goals of self-sufficiency.

New Interns Are Another Win/Win

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If you remember your first career move, then you know what an advantage it can be to get a little taste of the work day and some practical experience when you’re still in school. It can take the edge off the typical fears and self-doubt that many young employees feel before plunging into the day-to-day grind of their first big job.

SFB-CRC is excited to welcome four students from San Miguel High School in Tucson as interns. San Miguel uses a work-study model as part of their curriculum to foster social responsibility and practical preparation for contributing to their communities in the future while earning tuition assistance at the same time. SFB-CRC pays $26,000 per year for a 40-hour work week through this program, and two of our long-time generous donors have agreed to match a $13,000 funding goal for these kids, so we hope everybody out there who sees the win-win value of this experience for kids and communities will consider contributing to keep it going.

Ninety organizations are currently participating in San Miguel’s program, and every student in the school signs up for a school-year long internship assignment one day per week. Most of the students come from lower income families and a hundred percent of recent graduates enrolled in college.

We were particularly inspired by a San Miguel sophomore struggling with math who was an intern for a large financial/brokerage institution.

“Her job required auditing financial deposits, transfers and withdrawals,” her principal related, “a very tedious job that required checking debits and credits. All day long she pored over these financial statements. One day she went to her supervisor and reported that some withdrawals ‘didn’t seem right.’ She noticed that transfers of several thousand dollars went to an undisclosed location. It turned out to be an off-shore account in the Caribbean. She was able to crack an embezzlement and cover-up that ultimately led to the indictment of an employee.”

Each of our interns gets a primary assignment. Interns assist staff with developing, planning, and executing classes and programs promoting healthy eating. As needed, they help with greeting and intake. Under guidance of staff, they assist with marketing (social media, flyers, etc.) of programs, classes, and events. They work with grant writers to help streamline proposals, collaborate with staff to develop standard operating procedures for areas of organization that need it, and assist staff with day to day tasks whenever delegated by management. They must be bilingual to assist with interpretation and translation when needed.

These young people bring energy and enthusiasm in learning how to deal with a variety of workplace situations and SFB-CRC receives valuable assistance for our programs. More importantly, this collaborative effort fosters the development of a better tomorrow for our kids and our communities. What a great way for every individual and organization involved to grow and be part of something that benefits everyone.

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SFB-CRC has served families with children of all ages since our inception in 2009, but we have never had the opportunity to provide intensive programming for families with kids from birth to five years old.

Thanks to a grant opportunity by First Things First’s Pima South Regional Council through United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, with money from a long-term statewide settlement with tobacco companies, we now have the chance to form a Family Resource Center to help parents of young children. Our FRC will be one of three in the region, with other locations at Sunnyside Unified School District and Altar Valley Elementary School District.

The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ is providing the space. The FRC is a long-term program needing two dedicated spaces each day of the week excluding Sundays, as well as flexible use of other rooms and the outdoor courtyard. Although SFB-CRC is independent, the Church incubated the food bank and has always supported our mission, for which we are incredibly grateful.

Activities in both English and Spanish will focus on child and parent or guardian interactions and workshops for families navigating parenting of very young children. Family support resources are also available to families struggling with issues such as child care, health, and employment. U of A Cooperative Extension, Parent Aid, Casa de los Niños, Make Way for Books, and Easter Seals Blake Foundation will work with us so together we can provide nearly 150 offerings to participating families. Stay and Play, as an example, is a chance for parents and their babies to share time together playing—with a resource person to show parents new ways of interacting. The goal is to encourage play that helps babies learn.

Our CRC program manager Sofia Castro will be working with the new FRC coordinator whose position will be funded by the grant. If all goes well, we expect 3 more years of funding. SFB-CRC is currently working with United Way and our partners to plan an open house in the fall so you will be able to see the FRC fully operational.

There is still a lot of work to do, but with the many participants coming together this program will have a positive impact on young families throughout our communities.

FRC to Focus on Little Ones

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OneAZ in our Corner

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OneAZ Credit Union has stepped up to offer support to SFB-CRC in two important ways. They are providing a financial coach, Vanessa Alsparo, to work with two participants in our Financial Well-Being program. The coaches work individually with participants to help them develop a current budget and a dream budget, as well as education about credit scores and developing plans for longer term financial security. OneAZ has also donated $5,000 toward the Weekend BackPack program providing weekend food for 450 local students in the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program, which ensures they don’t have to come to school hungry on Mondays.

Oak Street Health Helps Out

SFB-CRC is partnering with Oak Street Health (OSH) to focus on seniors in our community. The only primary care company endorsed by AARP, they are a network of primary care centers for Medicare recipients. They focus on treatment, education, prevention and social interaction targeting senior physical and behavioral health concerns to bridge health disparities and achieve health equity. OSH offers a mix of in-center, in-home, and telehealth appointments, as well as a 24/7 patient support line. They have 3 clinics in Tucson. They provided us with two volunteers to regularly assist with food bank operations, and they assist with scheduling patient appointments and transportation to appointments, which addresses a key need in rural areas where many seniors struggle to get back and forth to visits and testing.

You Could Win It

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For just a $25 ticket you can help support SFB-CRC and get the chance to win a 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor, thanks to the annual Jim Click raffle to benefit non-profits in our area. All proceeds from our ticket sales become revenue to support our food distribution and community resource programs. Second prize is two first-class round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world, and third prize is $5,000. Thank you, Jim Click. Drop by SFB-CRC at 17750 S. La Canada Drive in Sahuarita any weekday 9 to 3 or 9 to noon Saturday to purchase your ticket. We really appreciate your participation and hope you win!

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Try Meals2Go

You can get a great “ready to heat” meal for yourself as a break from hot kitchen cooking this summer or provide one for a homebound food bank recipient and end up donating to food bank operations at the same time. It’s easy to order and the meals are healthy and affordable. Delicious fresh or fresh and frozen meals (see menus) are prepared by our new chef and culinary program manager Weezie Bryson. If you order on-line by Wednesday evening each week, you will be able to pick it up Friday afternoon from noon to 4 pm—cash, check or credit card. If you pay it forward, we will make sure a person who receives our food bank deliveries will get to enjoy that meal.

Just a reminder that you can help us anytime you shop Fry’s.

You will need a Fry’s VIP card to register for Fry’s Community Rewards. If you don’t have one, visit Fry’s to pick one up. Then…

Click the Fry’s graphic above. The Fry’s Community Rewards Program will open. Scroll down to the Link Your Shopper’s Card icon and click Log into Your Fry’s Account. If you don’t have an account, you will need to create one by clicking Create Account. Follow the screen prompts and find Sahuarita Food Bank or TQ827, then click Enroll, and remember to always swipe your Fry’s card each time you shop.

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