THE APPLE BASKET

MARCH 2021

 

What’s the Latest?

SFB-CRC is happy to keep our staff, clients, volunteers, donors, and friends informed. Here are a few of the latest developments in SFB-CRC’s ongoing commitment to serve our community:

  • Following the February ground-breaking for the new 14,300 square foot building, excavation and compacting were done in preparation for the footings. The footprint of the building is now visible, which creates a real picture of what’s ahead. Drive by or you can follow the progress on a time lapse video posted periodically.

  • COVID continues to affect operations. Until October 1 we will distribute food at the usual location by appointment only on Wednesdays, 9 to 1, which allows us to serve up to 60 households. Service is fast, which allows our clients to better use their time and it keeps our food distribution more manageable. Regular food distribution continues on Thursdays from 9-1 and Saturdays from 9-12, with no appointments necessary.

  • Food is being delivered to 50 homebound residents twice a month at Del Coronado Apartments. This new program is so important in feeding the spirit of volunteers and recipients during the COVID crisis.

  • We are so grateful for the continued and new financial support from members and friends of The Good Shepherd. We were honored to receive donations for the building and operations from members of the GVR LGBTQ Club, organized by church members Paula Welch and Connie Bennett. Capital campaign dollars continue to come in. We have received welcome contributions—both large and small—since our groundbreaking, and this will help greatly in meeting our goal of raising the final $550,000.

  • Some donors have decided to contribute their $600—and most recently $1400—stimulus checks to our building fund and our continuing mission. If you would like to join these contributors we would be delighted to receive your generous donation of a check made out to Sahuarita Food Bank in person or mailed to 17750 S. La Canada Drive, Sahuarita, AZ 85629, or give on-line.

  • The Del E. Webb Foundation unanimously approved a $225,000 grant for the Community Resource space in the new building. They have designated us an “exceptional organization” by their unanimous vote…see Del E. Webb Foundation.


Without the continued generosity of all those who have given their time and treasure to us, SFB-CRC could not possibly continue to grow and prosper with the new building and the programs we are able to create to fight hunger and support those in need in the community.
 
“Thanks, as always,” said Board President Penny Pestle, “for your past, present and future support.”

Reaching Out

SFB-CRC tries to be there for anyone who needs us. We greet hundreds of people each week who are food insecure. They come to us because they have nowhere else to turn. Sometimes, though, we find ourselves coming to them.

New United Way Elder Alliance staff person Martha Portilla has been working with the Better Together Human Services Working Group to target concerns regarding a community of 98 residents at Del Coronado Apartments. Most are seniors with limited means, many who battle significant disabilities.

She met with management and residents and conducted a survey in both Spanish and English to determine their need for food assistance. All residents responded and she discovered that 40 have not been able to get to the food bank because of COVID and other limitations, so SFB-CRC immediately took steps to reach out to them.

Executive Director Carlos Valles and Operations Manager Sue Eaton developed a plan. Five volunteers were eager to take this on, so they started delivering food boxes March 2 to a number of residents Tuesdays and Wednesdays, twice a month. Ten more clients were enrolled in the program in the first three weeks of operation, so SFB-CRC now provides service to half the residents of Del Coronado Apartments.

“Each of our volunteers has ten residents they communicate with,” Sue explained, “and they ensure the delivery works well for them. The residents really enjoy having contact with the outside.”

Many lack transportation or are disabled, and others are past clients who can’t risk coming because of COVID. They all are so appreciative, Sue said, to have this service. She added that all the volunteers are very pleased to be able to serve a group of people who really need our help.
 
It’s a win/win for all involved, and just another way SFB-CRC will continue to do whatever it takes to make certain there is food on the table for those who need us the most.
 

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

 

Visit https://www.frysfood.com, log into your Fry’s account and find Sahuarita Food Bank or TQ827, click 2, then Enroll, and always swipe your Fry’s card each time you shop. Pick up a rewards card at Fry’s if you don’t have an account.

 

Amazon shoppers can click the Amazon Smile graphic below to sign up. Don’t forget to Google amazonsmile.com each time you shop.

Help Us When You Shop

 
 

SFB-CRC takes pride in being able to offer much more than food assistance to families struggling financially in our community.

The Pio Decimo Center from Catholic Community Services of Tucson provided us with volunteer tax preparers Larry and Phyllis Davis, who take the tax filing burden off the shoulders of so many of our food bank visitors and other community residents. SFB-CRC brought Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) to our clients in 2019. It’s free and they are grateful to be able to receive all the credits for which they are entitled. Average income is under $20,000.

With a focus on elderly and low-income households who may have limited English, Larry and Phyllis have adopted a drive-through service because of COVID. Clients are greeted between noon and four on Thursdays and just have to complete an information form and submit their tax documents. Some are done in a few hours, and others in a day or so. Fifty taxpayers used the program over 11 weeks when it started in 2019, but numbers have significantly increased, often 25 per week in 2021, so volunteers Jeff and Wendy Allen have joined the team to help carry the load.

Larry and Phyllis started with VITA 15 years ago. Larry was a group health insurance marketing director and Phyllis an actuary. Their Iowa company gave employees time off to volunteer, so they helped out through United Way in Des Moines and Cooperative Extension at the University of Iowa. Once retired, they often worked six days a week during tax season and at one point managed a group of 200 volunteers.

It became a very meaningful part of their lives, so they wanted to continue to offer their assistance to those in need when they moved here four years ago. Pio Decimo was a good fit, as the organization has been helping about 3000 people per year at 25 different locations. Devoted to their work, it’s rewarding but can be very exhausting, too. They will tell you “it’s intense from January to April, and then we’re done.”
 

VITA Volunteers Tackle Tax Hassle

They have developed strong personal relationships with people who return each year, which is understandable since they project respect and understanding in working with clients, and that’s a priority at SFB-CRC.

Clients are stunned that it’s free. “The appreciation we get is incredible,” Larry said, “and people want to give us something.” Of course, they cannot accept any compensation or gifts, but the gratitude they receive is fulfilling. They encourage clients to spread the word about the service, which offers people much more than just tax preparation. Many gain a newfound financial literacy regarding banking, business resources, social security, and money matters.

They are required to renew their certification every year since tax laws change, so it’s a continual learning process. With their experience and expertise, they do much of the training themselves.

The couple could relate multiple stories of the impact their contributions as volunteers have had on people who struggle each day with financial pressures.

“A client will stick in our mind every season,” they explained, “like the single mom raising three kids on her own. Imagine her reaction when we told her she would be getting $10,000 in a refund.”

Larry and Phyllis can speak volumes about the intrinsic rewards of serving their community, and they encourage others to visit a VITA site to see the impact it has on people in need.

SFB-CRC’s board and staff can likewise speak volumes about the rewards of being blessed with volunteers like these.
 

SPECIAL EDITION

FEBRUARY 22, 2021

Groundbreaking Launches New Beginnings

Ten local dignitaries turned golden shovels on a sunny afternoon February 11, marking the first step toward completion of SFB-CRC’s new building. Board President Penny Pestle and Executive Director Carlos Valles directed them to seats centered on the property south of The Good Shepherd Church where the 14,300 sq. ft. facility should be ready in less than a year.

Seated and introduced were Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy, Good Shepherd Pastor Randy Mayer, Army

 

Guard Command Sgt. Major Fidel Zamora, La Posada CEO Joni Condit, Capital Campaign Chair Joyce Finkelstein, Freeport-McMoRan Strategic Community Development Manager Jessica Brack, pro bono project manager Dennis St. John, architect Elizabeth Farkas, and Board Members Curt Keim and Jackie Smith.Site Superintendent Gene Swayngim, MW Morrissey contractor Matt Watza, and SFB-CRC Board Members Roberta Lopez-Suter and Ann Striker were also introduced. Unable to attend were Leadership Donors Daniel Tylutki and Michael McDonald, as well as Dr. John Lees, representing Del E. Webb Foundation, and Elisa de la Vara with the Arizona Community Foundation, which provided a construction loan.


“I’m so excited that we are finally going to have our own home,” Carlos announced, citing a 150 % growth in clientele during the pandemic. “I get to come to work every day and watch another piece put together.”


The new building will not only house more equipment and store more food, but it will provide space for the Community Resource Center to conduct parenting and job-related instruction for those seeking a better life.


Mayor Murphy praised the effort that brought so many in the community together for a common cause. “It’s just the way we get things done in Sahuarita.”


Penny heaped praise upon the Army Guard and Air Force Guard for all their help. “We could not have stayed open without you,” she said.


“They feel like part of the family, part of the team,” Sgt. Major Zamora responded. “The only way we get through this is to work together.” He noted that some of their personnel have enjoyed the experience so much that they continue to volunteer on their own time.


Pastor Randy reminisced about a tiny food pantry 12 years ago with one church volunteer sitting in a room reading a book to pass the time. “We’ve come a long way since then. It seems like it happened overnight.” Noting Matthew 25:35, When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, he added that “sometimes people wondered if this was a church running a food bank, or a food bank running a church.”

Penny closed by relating a couple of stories of generosity from donors. A seven-year-old girl asked her mother if she could give $25, and the Del E. Webb Foundation donated $225,000 to the Community Resource Center. “We are so thankful for all who gave to make this a reality.”

We hope you will join them as a new donor (or renew your support) for the building. You can just send a check to Sahuarita Food Bank at 17750 S. La Canada, Sahuarita, AZ 85629, or go to https://www.sahuaritafoodbank.org/donate-now.  You can receive the full Arizona tax credit for a contribution of $400 per person or $800 dollars per couple if you contribute before April 15, 2021.


“This is a platform,” she declared, “that helps us to better serve our community. Not just food, but to help people become more economically self-sufficient.”

JANUARY 2021

 

Long Anticipated

Groundbreaking  in February!

SFB-CRC is extremely pleased to announce that we are working on final plans with our contractor for a groundbreaking in February for our new building. Look for a special edition of the Apple Basket announcing the date and how you can join our virtual celebration. This will launch the construction of our 14,300 square foot facility immediately south of the current SFB-CRC location at The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ on land they are leasing to us.

 

The new facility will accommodate large amounts of food in storage, including two large coolers for frozen and refrigerated goods, as well as lots of space for non-perishable items. The building will allow us to fulfill our missions of feeding the hungry people in our community and helping individuals and families become more economically secure.

 

The commercial kitchen is three times the size of our current kitchen and will provide lots of space for food processing (repacking into smaller packages) and sorting. We will offer food related classes, such as prep and line cooking, incubating home-based food businesses, and nutrition in the new kitchen.

 

A part of the new building will house classrooms and gathering space for family support services and workshops, children’s programs, and workforce development through the Community Resource Center.

 

The Town of Sahuarita has issued the permit, and we have passed all federal environmental assessments required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development—no toxic substances, Pima pineapple cacti, or burrowing owls, and no one expressed any concerns through public comment. We are currently working on finalizing contracts.

“We celebrate the community support that is making this project become a reality, thanks to more than 240 donors, large and small,” said Board President Penny Pestle. “We still need to raise $600,000 during the next

several months, but we are confident that with continued and new community support we cannot fail. Please check your email for the upcoming Apple Basket Special Edition announcing the date and time, so that we can join together electronically.

 

Checks for the Nourishing Our Community Capital Campaign can be sent to Sahuarita Food Bank; 17750 South La Cañada; Sahuarita, AZ; 85629, and donations may also be made online.

Holiday Drives Bring Bonanza

Fourteen local organizations and schools outdid all previous records in a heartfelt holiday effort in November and December, conducting food drives that brought SFB-CRC 13,266 pounds (6.5 tons) of donated food and more than $14,000 in cash.

 

Donors large and small recognized the key role that food banks have played in meeting basic needs for individuals and families throughout the community who have been adversely affected by the pandemic. The need has doubled since last year at this time.

 

Carole Drewis describes herself as “an instigator,” and there is no question her energy and persistence made the difference as leader of the Activity Committee at the Green Valley RV Resort. She and a few dedicated volunteers collected $7,000 this year with match challenges to the residents. In April they awarded proceeds to the Green Valley Food Bank and then during the holidays to SFB-CRC.

 

“There is a real sense of community,” she said. “More than 35 residents reached into their pockets and into their hearts,” she put it. One donor told her that “God’s been good to us and we want to share.”

 

A 300-unit community, most residents spend winters here, although about 25 percent didn’t come due to COVID. With an average age of 75, they are normally very active. Carole and her committee organize dances, karaoke, potlucks, men’s and women’s groups, and large dinners. She owned a restaurant so she and her crew know how to feed 120 or so, although this year they are preparing them to be picked up and taken home.

 

Those who organized food drives for SFB are:

  • Walden Grove High School

  • Anza Trail School

  • Sahuarita High School

  • Town of Sahuarita Winter Festival Drive-Through Parade

  • Cross Point Church

  • Anza Trail School

  • Seventh-Day Adventist Church

  • Madera Neighborhood

  • Quail Creek Neighborhood Unit 15

  • Rancho Sahuarita

  • Quail Creek Pickleball

  • Rancho Resort

  • Rancho Sahuarita

  • Rural Metro Fire Department

  • Green Valley RV Resort

Nanette Smejkal and her Parks and Recreation staff have already collected 740 pounds of food and $520 in cash through a recent food drive sponsored by the Town of Sahuarita in conjunction with a recycling event, a great start for 2021.

 
 

I Know We’ll Meet Again

COVID weary, yes, but SFB-CRC will never let anything keep us from our mission to feed the hungry. We are committed to staying open! We have always eagerly looked forward to the day when we can bring back our valued volunteers and resume normal activities. That day can be just around the corner for those who take the vaccine through the SFB, or provide certification from another source.

 

Of course, nothing is really “normal,” as SFB-CRC has experienced constant changes. We have doubled the number of visitors, and brought in a variety of food offerings and new programs. In March we instituted within a few days a new drive-through food distribution program. In April we purchased a remote intercom to allow contactless communication between volunteers and clients.

 

In October we entered a partnership with United Community Health Center in Green Valley to test our volunteers weekly. It is an antigen test, which allows diagnosis in 15 minutes. A positive test is repeated to verify the diagnosis. Volunteers need to participate in the testing program in order to volunteer or work on-site. This testing has proved to be vital, since it provides us with a timely warning of positive cases. It revealed eight positives. Tragically, we lost a valued volunteer. SFB-CRC requires a negative PCR test before returning after quarantine.

 

After a huge community COVID surge following Thanksgiving, Executive Director Carlos Valles and the Board determined that we needed to prevent as much direct interaction among volunteers as possible, since most are at high risk because of age and chronic conditions. We very reluctantly ordered that only staff and our National Guard contingent would be working on-site during distribution days. On other days, groups of only three or four would come in to load food bags. The system worked well. We do have some N-95 masks, but they are costly and very slow to be delivered. We expect more in the next few weeks, thanks to Freeport-McMoRan.

 

SFB-CRC wants our volunteer force to be able to be together again soon, but of course to protect them and staff and visitors, we’ll require vaccinations, since public health authorities have stated the vaccine will be the only way to remain safe. Timing and quantity of vaccine is uncertain. Carlos has reached out to all volunteers to give them the opportunity to sign up for the two vaccinations series. 80 volunteers have signed up.

 

SFB-CRC hopes more than anything that everyone with whom we interact will be able to return to a new “normal” with COVID fear reduced so we can continue to serve the community as we anticipate our new building.

 

Don’t know when, but we will be together again.

Star on Our Small Staff

She calls herself a little weird and says she hasn’t quite grown up yet. That’s just a part of her charm, spirit, and sense of humor.

 

Kellie Tonks is our part-time bookkeeper, mailing list manager, office manager, and “thank you writer.” She also helps out on food distribution days. Over the last five years she has become an important player on our small staff, which includes Executive Director Carlos Valles and part-time warehouse coordinator April Young. Kellie was office manager and bookkeeper for her parents’ family-owned acoustical products business, and she joined us through justserve.org, the service arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 

She and husband Paul have been married for 16 years and have four children in fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades in the Sahuarita Schools. She’s pleased, she said, to be a part of an organization that supports families trying to become economically self-sufficient, something our Community Resource Center is committed to doing.

 

Kellie’s family has experienced a lot of illness, but she has always imparted joy while displaying resilience and professionalism. These are characteristics that we really value.

 

“You guys are great,” she declared, “and the organization feels like a big family. The other employees are like my siblings. You provide me with the flexibility to be a mom, and everyone else is like a parent!”

People who know her cite her work ethic, spirit, and sense of humor. “Kellie’s skills go beyond bookkeeping,” said SFB Board Secretary/Treasurer Jackie Smith. “When COVID-19 hit and volunteers were scarce, she pushed up her sleeves and dug in helping to fill bags and distribute food. She is very caring, and our mission is important to her.”

 

Kellie Tonks shines her light every time you see her, so we think she’s a star.

 

Protein is Paramount

SFB-CRC is one of only three food banks in Pima County that provides milk and eggs for their clients. Nutritionists stress the importance of protein for everyone, especially growing children who need it for brain development, and seniors who often do not get enough protein in their diets. Clients receive a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs at each of the two monthly visits for which our visitors are eligible, and the Dairy Council of Arizona helped our storage needs by providing two dedicated refrigerators.

 

For a number of months during the last year, the federal trade-mitigation program often provided generous supplies of milk and eggs because they purchased them from farmers who could not market them due to tariffs, but the program is being discontinued. SFB-CRC must now rely on grants and donations to cover the cost of purchasing these items.

 

In the first two weeks of 2021, SFB-CRC spent $2500 on milk and eggs, and we plan to continue the program because it addresses our commitment to provide nutritious food to our visiting households. However, at this rate, the annual cost will reach at least $65,000 and maybe more if the number of visitors continues to climb.

 

This is an important program and a great way to provide direct financial support for something so essential to the health of those we serve. Won’t you consider sending a check to Sahuarita Food Bank, 17750 South La Canada, Sahuarita, AZ 85629, or make a donation online.

 

What a Friend

They have always been there for us.

Even though SFB-CRC is an independent non-profit, we owe The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ of the Santa Cruz Valley a great deal of gratitude for their support. They have always believed that service is what makes the church vital in the lives of its congregation and in the community.

 

Approached by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, SFB-CRC opened a small pantry in 2009 to help create an additional source of food for the hungry, particularly important in rural areas where transportation can be a huge challenge. We were a secular source from the beginning, open to all who qualify up to 185% of the poverty level, based on size of family. SFB-CRC grew 20 to 30 percent each year, so the need for more food, space, and volunteers became greater. Although more than half our financial support and volunteers presently come from outside the church, The Good Shepherd UCC members “incubated” this mission of feeding the hungry by providing major food donations, financial support, and volunteers.

 

The church opened its own facilities and provided space when we needed it. At one point there were white chest freezers in virtually every corridor of the church. They even agreed to lend the assistant pastor’s office to the food bank. Space from two large outdoor refrigeration units purchased in 2014 is already used up, and this year we bought a 40-foot used refrigerated banana container that now acts as a freezer. Once again the church supported us, welcoming a growing constellation of storage units just south of the sanctuary.

 

The church is now holding only virtual services due to the pandemic, so they have accommodated pallets of non-perishable food inside the sanctuary, the fellowship room, and some outside. We think it is rather remarkable that, after 12 years, the church and SFB-CRC have closely co-existed without strife or discord, always attempting to accomplish our missions side by side.

 

It will be a new challenge ahead for all as we enter a year-long construction project for our new building that will begin in a few short weeks. It will take commitment and patience, but we are confident that SFB-CRC and the church will continue to support each other. A good example is the fact that the church will generously lease the building site to us for only one dollar per year..

 

What a friend we have.

Help Us When You Shop

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

 

Visit https://www.frysfood.com, log into your Fry’s account and find Sahuarita Food Bank or TQ827, click 2, then Enroll, and always swipe your Fry’s card each time you shop. Pick up a rewards card at Fry’s if you don’t have an account.

 

Amazon shoppers can click the Amazon Smile graphic below to sign up. Don’t forget to Google amazonsmile.com each time you shop.

 
Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center
17750 La Cañada Drive
Sahuarita, AZ 85629
(520) 668-0547
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The Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center is committed to true racial and economic justice in our region. We confront poverty by providing nutritious food to all who come to us and work together within our communities to eliminate systemic barriers to economic security.