top of page

SFB-CRC President Penny Pestle

Remembers Liz Wright

On Saturday, June 27, Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center lost one of our own to the COVID-19 menace. Liz Wright volunteered at the SFB for more than three years and we will miss her greatly. At first, she filled in during the summers when so many of our dedicated volunteers are gone. Then she became a regular on Saturday mornings, working as part of the registration team.

Liz was a warm presence for our food bank clients, as she was friendly and outgoing, and welcomed everyone with a big smile. She also established strong relationships with other volunteers. Nancy Ackley, her older sister and member of the board, says the SFB-CRC was Liz’s most meaningful role because of the importance of our mission.

In addition to the SFB-CRC, she volunteered at the Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital, the White Elephant, and was always very engaged with The Good Shepherd UCC.

The most recent church directory would not have been possible without Liz. She worked with the publisher and photographer, confirmed everyone’s contact information and faithfully ensured that all congregation members got their pictures taken—a role not for the faint of heart!

Before coming to Green Valley, Liz lived in Ohio, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kent State and had a purpose-driven career as a teacher, including special education, and as a well-respected school psychologist. Clearly, she lived her life in service to others and as a special friend and colleague.

Jennie Gaines resized.png

Tough and Tireless

Jennie Gaines

Though she just started at SFB-CRC last summer, Jennie Gaines is already a stalwart among volunteers. Small, but fit and flinty, she’s become a versatile utility player, tackling a number of jobs, as well as looking forward to teaching once SFB-CRC is ready to offer classes.

She dons her special summer gear and drinks lots of Gatorade greeting visitors in blistering heat as they line up in their cars in the sun to follow the pandemic driven protocol. Raising three kids and working 12 to 14 hour shifts for 43 years as a nurse in pre-op, post-anesthesia, and recovery, Jennie is no stranger to endurance challenges. Her hard work with the food bank, she hinted, helps her to wrangle with that longing to be on the front lines as a nurse.

She was also a master gardener and worked for Cooking Matters in her home state of Indiana, helping children and parents learn to cook on a budget, so her cooking skills and nutrition experience will be great assets once classes start up. She loves to interact with kids.

The Quail Creek resident followed up on a posting for summer volunteers in May of 2019 and has worked in registration, prepped weekend nutrition BackPacks for area students, loaded food boxes and bags into vehicles, and picked up food from the agency market and GAP Ministries in Tucson. During the school year, Jennie co-led at the Summit View Elementary School pantry twice a month. She has also helped April, our logistics and warehouse coordinator, and selflessly shows

up to clean the facility and sort food on non-distribution days.SFB-CRC is incredibly lucky to have someone with her energy and passion for healthy food and helping people.“Jennie has quickly become a team leader,” says SFB-CRC Executive Director Carlos Valles. “She is always eager to help out in any role, whether it’s packing food boxes, directing traffic, or loading cars in 105 degree weather. She is always up to the task.”

covid testing resized.png

COVID Crisis Creating

Collaborative Climate

Community cooperation has emerged as an essential extension of the unifying spirit we all must muster to confront this assault on the well-being of our society.

The tragic loss of dedicated volunteer Liz Wright reminds us that we need to continue to be vigilant and proactive in effectively providing as safe an environment as we can. SFB-CRC reached out to Dr. Jimenez at the United Community Health Center to get every active volunteer tested as soon as possible. Although UCHC is very busy testing other organizations, including the Joyner Green Valley Library, within just a few days Laurie West set up the process right at the food bank.

All our regular volunteers, as well as ten National Guard members who have been assisting this summer, tested negative. It’s only a snapshot, but it nevertheless provides some reassurance that our volunteers are careful, here and at home. And, it’s a testament to how much people in our community support each other in this crisis.

Better Together Southern Arizona Coalition is proving that as well by forming an Internet Connectivity group of community organization members who will work together to bridge the digital divide that finds some local families struggling to afford installation and internet service so their kids can keep up academically. This becomes even more important given the current uncertainty about how K-12 schools will operate. The pandemic has highlighted how many students do not have internet connectivity. It’s feared they will quickly fall further behind their peers. Sahuarita Unified School District and Continental Schools attempted to get every student a Chromebook during the spring shut-down, but of course they are useless without reliable internet service.

SFB-CRC co-leads the Better Together movement, and for the last several years a working group in that coalition called School Resources has focused on behavior health support for students. They recognize this digital divide, and are studying ways to solve it within the next 60-90 days. They have already met on Zoom with representatives from two small wireless providers, and Sprocket Communications, Inc., five school districts, the Amado Youth Center, a telecommunications law practice, and the Sahuarita Food Bank and Community Center. With the expertise around this “virtual” table, they hope to find cost-effective and technologically smart approaches that connect the greatest number of students.

As COVID-19 continues to try to hinder and handicap us, SFB-CRC will partner and promote collaboration with community organizations to find solutions that can help lessen or eliminate its damaging effects on those who are most vulnerable.  


Almost There

It’s been a long road, and the COVID crisis added an extra hurdle, but SFB-CRC is excited to soon see a new beginning at the end of the road. After two and half years of planning and fundraising, look for us to break ground in September for a new 13,800 square foot building that will grant this organization the incredible opportunity to do so much more for those who need us in our community.


By the fall of 2021, SFB-CRC expects to be able to provide more days and more convenient hours for our visiting households to shop and participate in community resource center (CRC) programs. 


There will be a larger and more convenient shopping area for our food bank visitors, and space for partner agencies to offer their services to our participants. A much larger kitchen will make it easier to process and package bulk food offerings, and there will be three times as much food storage space. 


The CRC arm of the organization will be able to provide health and nutrition and family support programs, as well as bringing a strong emphasis toward helping participants define their goals for learning and employment with coaching and other programs to assist them in achieving more economic security. 


Complete construction plans will be submitted in August to the Town of Sahuarita for permitting, and thanks to The Good Shepherd UCC, SFB-CRC will have a long-term ground lease—right where we now lease—for the land on which the building will be constructed. We believe we are well on our way to meeting our funding goal, but we will continue to need additional community support to make it.


Please help us get to the finish line. You can send a check to The Sahuarita Food Bank at 17750 La Canada, Sahuarita, AZ 85629, making sure to note that it’s for the Capital Campaign, or go to


Thank you so much for helping us to build our capacity to serve the hungry in our community, and to provide support, coaching, and programs to help more of our residents become economically secure.

sfb new building.S.E..jpg
Anchor 2
Anchor 3

Pandemic Prompts Increase in Grants

“The COVID crisis has led many grantors to expand and/or focus their granting programs on organizations that provide for basic needs such as food,” announced SFB-CRC Board President Penny Pestle.

130 more students will receive weekend nutrition BackPacks from SFB-CRC this upcoming school year, thanks to financial assistance from Wells Fargo, Desert Diamond Casinos, and the Kroger Foundation. SFB-CRC serves up to 600 students in eight or nine area schools, providing them with nutritious food packages when they’re missing meals at school.

SFB-CRC was nominated by Why Hunger to receive help for summer food for children and families through Albertson’s and Safeway’s Nourishing Neighbors Community Relief Fund. Operations also received a big boost from Arizona Milk Producers & Dairy Council, who awarded matching funds for 300 gallons of milk each week in May and June, and the Matching Milk Money Program donated a commercial refrigerator to meet the food bank’s increased storage needs during this pandemic.

“We are so fortunate to be able to pick up these grants, and we look forward to the possibility of progress on grants to also help with capital funding for the new building,” Penny said, “even though we continue to rely primarily on the generosity of donors, friends, and community members and organizations to reach that goal.”


For # 5Milk refrigerator.jpg
Anchor 4
bottom of page