THE APPLE BASKET
JULY / AUGUST 2021
Glimpses of Just Another Day as a Volunteer
It’s Thursday morning about 8:15. Carol and David discuss their plan to visit four supermarkets in the area. They’re looking forward to gathering all they possibly can of food stuffs too close to an expiration date, and thus more than the store can hold or sell. They know much of it they can use and it will help fill the SFB shelves. The van is empty—a familiar cavernous look—as they jump in and head out. Pretty soon a pallet of watermelons, a skid of water, 100 loaves of bread, and three large boxes of produce fill the void. By 9:30 they’ve checked off Sprouts and Walmart already. They drive the van back and unload—perishables in the cooler and freezer and the rest stacked to be sorted. Then it’s off again, two Safeway stores to go.
It’s tax time again. Phyllis and Larry pore over the mountain of papers. Experience and expertise guide them as they uncover every dollar they can save for their clients. They know just the $176 their client would have had to pay a tax preparer can now be used for food or rent or maybe school supplies for the kids. They’re experts, provided through the Pio Decimo Center of Catholic Social Services. Many families return year after year, so by now they know most of them well. They gently offer some helpful suggestions to a client about family finances. They feel satisfied today that they did everything they could to help a family save money.
Judy, a kitchen volunteer, stares at the boxes and boxes of strawberries. Most are fine, but some are coated with a furry layer of mold. It’s nothing new. She’s just grateful the good ones will go into delivery boxes and shopping carts for the hungry. It’s not the most pleasant task in her day, but she carefully picks out the best ones and discards the yucky surprises, remembering the rotten watermelon she picked up last week as it exploded in her hands. It comes with the territory, and she’s used to it. She laughs out loud, and she still loves what she does.
It’s delivery day again. David, Bruce, and Ann get ready for their every other week shift. They drive the van filled with food boxes over to the Del Coronado Apartments. About 50 low-income folks, severely disabled, and seniors with mobility challenges are waiting for the packages that are their lifelines. Our volunteers meet a smile and thank-you at each door, and then they linger a few minutes for a chat. They feel pretty good as they return to the food bank, knowing their kindness has made a big difference for someone less fortunate.
A reading room volunteer looks at their tiny faces, all of them mesmerized as she carefully articulates the next sentence. It’s another Storytime at SFB-CRC and she has looked forward to this day when she can be with the children again. “I just love to read,” one little boy squeals as he anxiously waits for the book he gets to take home with him. Parents see the excitement on their kids’ faces and want to encourage them now more than ever. She’s another volunteer who feels that special warmth that she can never really describe, but always comes back to feel again. As the kids shuffle out the door, she thinks about how she can’t wait to read to them again.
It’s a warm Saturday morning. Half-dozen cars are already lined up as the registration team gets ready for the first food bank visitors of the day. Sue, the operations manager, notes that Marnie, the third person in line, is crying, so she pulls her over to a private space. Soon both their faces are streaked with tears as Marnie shares her fear of an impending eviction, perhaps by the end of the month. The possibility of homelessness and hunger fuel the fear, but Sue first makes sure Marnie gets all the food she needs for her family of five, then contacts our navigator Roni, who’s on vacation in Canada. Roni assures her she will try to find available eviction assistance. Roni contacts Marnie as soon as she returns and guides her to the resources available through the American Rescue Plan.
These people would never tell you they are heroes, but their simple gestures in their volunteer work for us—a helping hand, a kind word, a sense of humor, an extra effort on a hot day, an enthusiasm for giving— can all add up. They’re clear and precious examples of how folks out there, just like those in our volunteer family, can be a force in making a better world.
A Bittersweet Farewell
It’s hard to lose dedicated volunteers, especially when they have been with our organization pretty much from the beginning.
Everyone connected with SFB-CRC wishes Bette Mulley all the best as she moves to Texas to be near her son, but her departure is a great loss to our community. Also a volunteer with White Elephant, The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, and the Samaritans, Bette’s selfless service to others has been a benchmark of her identity as a compassionate and tireless giver.
SFB-CRC Board President Penny Pestle remembers a time that clearly characterized this dynamic petite package of principles with a passion for what she believed in. Bette joined Penny and her 12-year-old niece and her friend for Thanksgiving one year. Penny recalls their discussion about the Civil Rights movement in the 60s when suddenly Bette “matter-of-factly” shared in her lovely Southern lilt that she had marched and protested herself.
“The more she talked about it,” Penny remembers, “the more the two girls paid attention. Their eyes got bigger and bigger, and it was clear they didn’t expect this from her.”
There are a lot of things we don’t always see on the surface with our volunteers unless we take the time to dig deeper and get to know them better. Bette Mulley’s contributions in making her community a better place will be missed, and so will she.
Grandpa Rick Rocks
Affectionately known as “Grandpa Rick,” he has brought more than a helping hand over the last four years to our SFB-CRC volunteer family. Like many of those who give so much of themselves to keep our operation running smoothly, Rick Krieger finds joy in what he does for others. He displays that enthusiasm and positivity each time he’s with us, currently an impressive 28 hours a week
“It can bring a smile to their faces, and that makes me happy,” he says when describing his first experience helping clients shop. “I like shopping with our visitors. I’m looking forward to doing it again.”
He spent 44 years with Southwest Energy LLC, retiring four years ago as a safety and training manager. He was actually the company’s first employee. There are 220 today. Rick tackles a variety of jobs for SFB-CRC, including shopping, delivering, sorting, and helping April Young, our warehouse and logistics coordinator, with grocery rescue at area stores.
“We can count on him for everything that needs to be done,” April said. “He is a real partner.”
Most of our volunteers think of each other as friends, and April would be the first to admit that Rick is no exception. He has become sort of a mentor and buddy to her son Devin, one of our youngest volunteers. The two hunt and fish together, and they all gather for family dinners.
Rick has witnessed a lot of changes in the time he’s been with SFB-CRC—an increasing number of clients, the new building going up, National Guard assistance, and the addition of a forklift, a gift from Amphenol. “That forklift is a godsend,” he says.
He feels invested in SFB-CRC’s mission ahead. “I look forward to seeing more of our volunteers return, more food choices, and more storage space.”
Rick Krieger is a tireless senior worker who daily demonstrates what it means to be a joyful and selfless volunteer, but we hope he knows that he is much more to us than one of our volunteers.
He’s Grandpa Rick.
Nothing Will Stop Us Now
It doesn’t matter what obstacles get thrown into our path. With the generous help of donors, volunteers, and government entities, along with the dedication of our contractor, the new building and CRC programs keep moving forward.
In the face of blistering early summer heat—on one occasion the temperature on the roof was recorded at 128 degrees—MW Morrisey and their sub-contractors continue to astound us. They have persevered for five months now through delays, storms, and material challenges so that the plan to open in early February can remain in place.
The framing is complete. Trusses are installed, ensuring it’s structurally sound, and the building is now completely enclosed. The roof decking is done on the main part of the building, and the foundation for our 75,000 gallon water tank is in place. The tank will serve as our water source for fire suppression, since the local water system lacked the appropriate volume and pressure. We are currently utilizing water from several tanks provided by The Good Shepherd for temporary fire suppression.
SFB-CRC was recently informed that Pima County is recommending an additional $150,000 in contracts that we hope will be approved by the Board of Supervisors. If approved, it will bring the total of Pima County contracted support to $802,000, making Pima County our biggest donor by far.
We are also very excited about plans for the implementation in the first 90 days of five workforce development programs through our Community Resource Center to be housed in the new building. SFB-CRC will continue to provide family support and health and nutrition programs as well. Roni Singh, who volunteered and then contracted with us for the last two years, has agreed to a contract to become our first ever director of the Community Resource Center. Roni’s background in education and leadership makes her a perfect match for what we are creating, a chance for members of our community to get the help they need to make a new start in their lives.
Our workforce development program will offer:
Basic employability skills—a class by the local Arizona@Work One-Stop
Line and prep cooking—a six-week class with local chefs and restauranteurs teaching and placing interns
CNA and Certified Caregiver—six-week classes with a state certification opportunity through Pima Community College, who will teach on-site
Computer1A and data entry, including a focus on medical data entry
Women’s Food-Based Business Entrepreneurship Program
SFB-CRC’s Board, donors, staff, volunteers, and friends have given so much to this project. With the continuing dedication from our contractor and the ongoing generosity from those who want us to continue to be a beacon of hope, encouragement, and support for those in our community who want to improve their lives, nothing will stop us from keeping that mission alive.
Remember Us When You Shop
Whenever you shop at Amazon, don’t forget to participate in AmazonSmile. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of your purchase price of eligible products toward SFB-CRC’s new building fund. It’s an easy way to help us out. If you are unfamiliar with AmazonSmile, just click on the logo for instructions on how you can sign up.
AmazonSmile: You shop. Amazon gives.
Saturday in the Park
Mark your calendar for upcoming Saturdays at Desert Meadows Park. Green Valley Gardeners, who provide us with thousands of pounds of produce each year, announced Super Saturdays—Art in the Park with music, food trucks, and a silent auction October 30 and November 6, 9-3, and a plant sale Saturdays and Sundays between October 30 through November 7, 9-3.
Where Will We Go?
Many local families, and individuals, too, are trying to avoid the catastrophic consequences that come with losing their homes. The pandemic has significantly increased pressure on renters, with nearly ten percent facing an immediate threat of eviction.
The federal government is providing funding for rental relief to state governments from Emergency Shelter Grants, Community Development Block Grants, and through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but many states are slow to get people registered and get the money to them. Fortunately, Pima County is listed as one of the top rental assistance distributors in the nation, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Although 80% of funding allocated here has been spent, Pima County is likely through its persistence to receive more funding from jurisdictions not using those dollars. Community Investment Corporation created a platform that allows landlords and tenants to apply online. They receive a number and get feedback as to where they are on the waiting list. Pima County’s Ending Poverty Now program manager Bonnie Bazata has been a champion with this challenge, hosting weekly or bi-weekly Zoom meetings to coordinate outreach and the application process, secure legal assistance and case management, and get eviction assistance to those in need.
Since February, SFB-CRC’s new Community Resource Director Roni Singh has been tirelessly using resources available here in Pima County to get help for those dealing with this difficult issue. She has already outlined information on eviction assistance for 71 families, guided them in navigating the complicated process online, helped get utility assistance, and aided evicted families in finding shelter, money, or other resources
Vanessa and her five children were evicted and forced to share a hotel room. With no money and no options remaining, Roni stepped in and worked with Pima County to keep her in the hotel so her kids could stay in school. Vanessa and her family are now on a waiting list for a house voucher that will hopefully help them find a home. There are many complicated cases like these that don’t get solved easily or quickly, but having an advocate and coach in Vanessa’s corner made all the difference.
The ravages and ruin from this horrible crisis are still no match for consistent collaboration and caring about what happens to our neighbors in need. Our Community Resource Center will continue to identify those who need a hand and do whatever we can to help.
Fantastic New Funder
We can’t place these people on the pedestal that we’d like to put up because the donors want to remain anonymous, but we are so grateful that an incredibly generous local couple has agreed to match any and all donations made after September 14, 2021, up to $20,000. The potential $40,000 from this challenge will go a long way in helping us fund our Nourishing our Community capital campaign. These folks are committed to this challenge because they believe their investment and the matches from future donors for the new building will produce immeasurable and visible results in the community for all of us.
To be a part of the challenge with your contribution, please note “$20,000 matching campaign” in the note section and send your check to Jackie Smith, Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center, 17750 S. La Cañada Drive, Sahuarita, AZ 85629.
Don’t Miss It!
Friends of SFB-CRC should keep November 9 in a special spot on their calendars. Funders, future funders, community members, and volunteers will be invited to sneak a peek at the new building at 4 p.m. while enjoying appetizers, refreshments and social distanced fellowship.
We will share our excitement about the new facility with tours, plus answer any questions. The building is not scheduled for completion until February, but we wanted to give those who might be curious, some maybe impatient, the opportunity for a special preview.
The new building will allow SFB-CRC to serve more hungry residents by distributing food as well as packing and delivering more than 600 weekend nutrition BackPacks to school children in nine different schools. We will also now have lots of space for community partnerships providing programs in one location that will provide health and nutrition assistance, many workforce development programs preparing our participants for employment and career advancement, and family support.
We look forward to seeing our guests there November 9 at 4 pm. We expect lots of wows!
Realtors Raise Us Up
Our local realtors recently rocked our world by selecting us as recipients for their annual fundraiser.
The Green Valley/Sahuarita Association of Realtors (GVSAR) wrote us a generous check for $7150 from their charity golf tournament at Desert Hills Golf Club, August 30, always well attended and successful.
GVSAR administrative executive Janie McDonald approached our executive director Carlos Valles earlier this year to talk about SFB-CRC, and he felt there was a clear resonance between the values underlying our work and the values of their board.
Janie joined Martha Koslowsky from Realty Executives and current GVSAR president; John Malozsak of Suburban Real Estate Group, the incoming GVSAR president; Jerry Sander of Sander Realty; Corey Hughes, GVSAR executive assistant; and Conner Malozsak of One Creative for the check presentation and a tour of the new building.
Martha remarked more than once that SFB-CRC is such an important part of our community and especially stressed the role of the CRC in helping people become more economically stable.
The local support we receive from prestigious professional organizations like the GVSAR is a real vote of confidence that we can continue the growth and success we have enjoyed. SFB-CRC is very fortunate to be building for the future in a community such as ours.
She looks forward to working with them for years to come. “The team will keep working together as we have,” she believes, “and I am just so happy to be here.”
She’s a Keeper
If I had to describe the perfect volunteer,” said SFB-CRC Board President Penny Pestle, “she would be Selene Castro.”
“She always does a great job at whatever she does,” agreed Operations Manager Sue Eaton. “She’ll take on any task and does it well.”
Though she has volunteered for just two years, Selene has become known as a quiet yet powerful presence at the food bank. Characterized by a bright smile, she registers food bank visitors, packs food boxes, helps load food into cars, and since she is bilingual, is able to help virtually anyone who visits the facility in any number of ways.
She has two grown daughters, one who helps Carlos, our executive director, and his wife Vanessa with their three-year-old twin girls, and the other is a student at U of A. With 20 years of experience as a licensed pharmacy technician in Nogales, Selene brings us a wealth of customer service skills along with an abundance of kindness. She says she loves volunteering for us. “I like to help people, and the other volunteers are so friendly and kind.”
You’re Never Alone
Everybody needs a helping hand sometimes, and even the smallest of creatures can remind us of why we’re here on this planet and what we’re supposed to be doing to look out for each other.
The hummingbird landed awkwardly, its tiny beak resting in a crack in the pavement in our parking lot. Obviously distressed, it clung to April Young, our warehouse coordinator. When it wouldn’t seem to revive and couldn’t fly, our office manager Kellie Tonks called a vet who suggested she take it to the International Wildlife Museum in Tucson. Kellie placed her in a box and drove her to Tucson.
The bird suffered a slight sprain and was dehydrated. Eventually rehydrated, she was returned to a tree nearby. It was a tough day for her, but she’s going to be fine because several people who refused to let it be alone, to ignore its plight, made a commitment to help the helpless no matter what it took to do that.
It’s nothing out of the ordinary here in our community. We will never let those in need be ignored or alone. SFB-CRC is committed to its mission to always be there when someone needs that helping hand. It’s what we do.
We’re thrilled to welcome back more and more of our volunteers each week. The National Guard is slated to complete their dedicated service to our clients late in June. We will once again be able to rely on new and returning volunteers as they receive COVID vaccines and rejoin our team. We particularly appreciate those who can lift at least 40 pounds. Please contact Carlo Valles at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in volunteering.
Let’s take a look at the latest happenings.
With neighbors forewarned, workers poured the concrete slab April 22, highlighting the actual footprint of the new building. Contractor MW Morrissey continues to do a wonderful job of sticking with the schedule. We’re looking forward to completion by December.
Trico Charitable Trust provided us with a generous grant for emergency food, including milk and eggs. We are fortunate to have Trico Electric Cooperative’s Director of Marketing and Communications serving on our board and working on special projects. She is a great asset and we appreciate all the support.
Wednesday appointment days has been a successful innovation, with 40-57 food bank visitors picking up food packages each week. They love the reliability of a fixed schedule. Our volunteers also appreciate it, since they can smooth out the flow of visitors so that Thursday and Saturday distribution days become less busy. It’s just another way we can better serve our clients.
MAY / JUNE 2021
COVID Brought Both Agony and Opportunity | June 2021
Talented Techie A Find for Us | June 2021
Sneak Preview Coming Soon | June 2021
We Want You | June 2021
Facebook Fundraise For Us | June 2021
COVID Brought Both Agony and Opportunity
SFB-CRC did not escape any of the pain of the pandemic. We continue to mourn the loss of two of our cherished volunteers, Liz Wright and Larry Layton. We were forced to make the difficult decision to send our volunteers away for everyone’s protection while we struggled to find ways to continue to provide food for those in need in our community.
We had to suspend plans for Community Resource Center programs, and we scrambled to completely redesign the food distribution operation almost overnight. COVID prompted construction costs on the new building to dramatically increase because of raw material shortages, transportation challenges, and other factors.
Even so, we were blessed during the crisis with a tremendous response from the community—as well as government entities—that reaffirmed our faith that the human spirit can shine through the darkest days when you live in a place where people really care about each other. Donations, grants, food drives, and individual non-perishable contributions helped to ensure that SFB-CRC was still able to feed hundreds of our most vulnerable residents each week.
In addition, with the CARES Act of last year and subsequent funding, Pima County’s Workforce Community and Development Department, now led by Dan Sullivan, prioritized the completion of specific capital projects designed to make a critical contribution to the needs of the community in the coming years.
Two contracts with the county allow us to purchase equipment that is essential to SFB-CRC’s dual mission—to provide food, of course, but also to forge ahead with our workforce development programs and classes through our new resource center. These COVID dollars will significantly support the recovery in Sahuarita and Green Valley from the pandemic by helping transform the lives of many who need us the most.
In the face of often overwhelming sadness and anxiety, the people and their local leaders have sent us a message that we cannot take for granted—that they will always have our backs.
SFB-CRC is fortunate to attract amazing volunteers. They bring skills and experience beyond anyone’s expectations.
Leslie DeGrassi is our webmaster, a self-taught technology expert with a big heart. She also designs invitations and funding letters for us. The granddaughter of homesteading Marana melon and lettuce farmers, Leslie returned to her roots in Southern Arizona after retiring in 2012 from her job as a meeting planning manager for an IT association in Colorado, where she also worked closely with the webmaster as the “steward of the content.”
An Air Force pilot’s daughter, she was born in Flagstaff and lived in Vienna and many other places until her father was transferred to Davis-Monthan in Tucson, where she attended U of A. She married an oil company employee, and that took her family to Egypt in the 70’s during an Arab-Israeli conflict where she continued to raise their three children.
She eventually returned to college at Colorado University in Boulder where she met her next husband Larry Worster. “He looked kind of interesting,” she said. They have been married for 30 years now. Music lovers around here know him as a bandleader and organizer of Green Valley’s Got Talent.
Leslie isn’t new to volunteering. She started in high school, and was once the executive director of the Bach Festival in Boulder. She says the SFB-CRC Board is the “best I’ve ever been on,” and asserts it has allowed her to “acknowledge my creative side.”
“I never thought of myself as creative before. I’m inspired by hearing what volunteers and staff say about clients, and by our executive director Carlos, who has both a giving heart and a can-do attitude.”
“I am so grateful,” said Board President Penny Pestle, “that Leslie is sharing that creativity with us as she supports the important work of the SFB-CRC.”
Talented Techie A Find For Us
More Than Just Food Assistance
SFB-CRC volunteers are the backbone of the operation. Their commitment, perseverance, and positive attitudes are precious gifts to the organization.
Like many of our unselfish volunteers, one pair continues to clearly display that kind of enduring strength for us. Sam Hill and Ray Valarde make the drive from Tucson several times a week to keep our offsite storage organized. They also keep track of our inventory. In addition, they help distribute food during Wednesday morning appointment distribution.
Executive Director Carlos Valles recruited Sam first, describing him as “an extremely outgoing, highly energetic team player.” Sam was visiting friends in Green Valley when one had to run an errand at the Good Shepherd Church and Sam went along for the ride. While noting food being distributed at the food bank, he observed a ten-year-old boy shopping alone for his family. It touched him deeply and he wanted to be a part of doing something about it. “I felt I was home,” he remembers thinking.
“I knew he would fit right into our SFB-CRC family,” Carlos recalled.
Sam brought Ray along about a year ago, and Carlos saw those same qualities. “Ray is affable and spirited,” he said, and when he witnessed how detail-oriented they were, he was more than impressed. “I was speechless when I first saw their organizational skills at our offsite storage. Each can was sorted by year of expiration, product type, can size, and even the color of the label. It was a masterpiece!"
Sam and Ray state they look forward to the new building as a major improvement. They see the challenge with limited space for storage and staging and are excited that the new building will make operations easier and will better serve clients. “SFB will make an organizational 180,” they put it.
Prior to COVID, many of our partners’ support programs were already in place for us. We intend to renew and refresh those. They include tax preparation through Pio Decimo Center, registration for SNAP benefits from DES, United Way’s Stay and Play, a dental van from Pima County, and Easter Seals Blake Foundation’s Conscious Discipline and home consultations. We also offered an early literacy program and Storytime at the SFB, using books contributed by Friends of the Green Valley Library. Each child left with a book of their choosing.
Workforce development programs continue in the planning stages, including certified caregiving and nurse assistant classes with Pima Community College, Arizona@Work One-Stop (employability), line and prep-cook practicum through La Posada, keyboarding and data entry, resume writing, job search and interviewing skills with a community partner, entrepreneurial food-based business skills, and others.
“The Community Resource Center under construction by the Sahuarita Food Bank will be a key resource for workforce preparation and skill development,” said Town of Sahuarita Economic Development Director Victor Gonzalez. “A strong workforce is key to attracting and retaining businesses, which strengthens our local economy.”
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.
Most food banks focus on meeting the urgent need for food. Certainly providing food assistance for hungry families in this community is the founding principle of SFB-CRC, but it’s only a part of what we want to do for our visitors.
SFB-CRC is also committed to helping families become more economically stable, able to get on the road toward independence, and thus be a part of the economic development of their own communities.
Many face daunting challenges such as language barriers, lack of education or low literacy, family problems, mental/behavioral or physical health issues, no transportation, or difficult school or work histories. Most want to overcome these obstacles in their lives and build skills they need, but don’t know where to turn. The Community Resource Center (CRC) will provide programs, individual coaching, and other services that will help them take those first steps toward preparing for a job, improving their health and nutrition, and getting the support they and their families need to move forward.
We are not interested in dictating their path to improvement. We will work with participants individually to assess skills and challenges, build a development plan together, and then walk alongside them as they follow it. CRC will provide guidance, coaching, referrals to other organizations and programs that can help them, as well as continuous encouragement, so that these hard-working people with limited means can maintain hope that they can achieve their dreams. Mentoring and mutual trust are key, so we are not only constructing a new facility to house these new programs, but we are building a team of compassionate coaches who want to make a difference and who will be there for each individual.
Ray is a California transplant, a retired lab technician in the dairy industry, and proud of his victory over addiction, sober for nine years now. Volunteering has always been important to him. He has worked with the Southern Arizona Aids Foundation and the Tucson Interfaith HV/AIDS Network.
Sam grew up in a remote Ohio town. “Fifty miles from where God pays attention,” he describes it. A retired human resources manager, he dedicated much of his time taking care of his mother. A marathon athlete, he has accumulated 38 running medals over the years, a testament to his discipline and determination.
These two bring that kind of inner strength, loyalty, and pride to our cause in whatever they do for us. SFB-CRC is blessed to have volunteers like these.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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
Quail Creek Neighborhood Unit 15
Quail Creek Pickleball
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.
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.