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December 2023

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Warmest Wishes From SFB-CRC

Our traditions are all about bringing light and hope into our lives and those around us. The winter solstice portends the promise of spring with new light and life ahead. Our holiday and religious celebrations emphasize following a star, lighting candles, or enjoying the wonder of firework displays.

May each of you find your celebrations filled with light and love. All of us at SFB-CRC express our abundant appreciation for all of you who journey with those we are privileged to serve in their time of need. 

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Food Banks Bursting

Food banks across the country are experiencing a huge increase in the number of hungry individuals and families seeking help. SFB-CRC is no exception. We served 63 percent more people in the last calendar year.

We know our community is always especially generous with financial donations and food drives during November and December. Because of this overwhelming new challenge, though, we are reaching out to ask you to please consider adding a little more to your contributions this holiday season in order to help us build reserves for May through October when food donations always fall dramatically.

You can send a check or contribute on-line, or consider an extra food donation. Your continued generosity will help us continue to provide the essential needs for those we serve throughout the coming year.

Although we generally make decisions slowly and deliberately, sometimes an opportunity and a need arise and you have to move on it quickly.

SFB-CRC staff and board discovered in September that the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona had decided to cease operating the Marana Resource Center. Just about as many hungry families as we serve depend on it, which includes rural communities such as Three Points, Altar Valley, and Robles Junction, and of course the Town of Marana.

Other critical numbers were also very similar to ours. Altar Valley Schools’ Free and Reduced–price lunch program percentages, for example, hover around 90%. Nine of sixteen schools in the Marana district fall between 45 and 73%. Mayor Honea of Marana, community members and volunteers, as well as Town Manager Terry Rozema and Town Council members, made it clear that they could not imagine Marana not having a food bank.

Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy and County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, great supporters for us over the years, stepped in to champion SFB-CRC as a model and source of operational leadership to revitalize the food bank in Marana. Marana moved quickly to meet with our new board president Roberta Lopez-Suter and other board members, as well as our executive director Carlos Valles and our program manager Sofia Castro. Marana volunteers and officials then visited SFB-CRC and reached an agreement in principle to proceed together.

We “adopted” them as our new sister organization, with Carlos Valles in the role as executive director. The official name is Marana Food Bank & Community Resource Center. Carlos will provide operational direction and supervise staff. Senior Logistics Coordinator Veronica Herrera and Senior Program Coordinator Luissel Palma are already on board, and more of the team will be announced in the next Apple Basket. An advisory committee with representatives from both organizations is in place and meets to provide input and guidance.

Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona crafted an agreement to sell the assets to the new organization, and will provide mobile food deliveries once monthly for two hours to rural locations. We know many will come to the Marana Town location as well.

Marana retains a small but dedicated crew of volunteers. As with SFB-CRC, they are the backbone of the organization, many involved for years feeding the hungry in Marana. Volunteers have been a part of it since 1952! Luissel addressed the volunteers recently: “There is such a bond here between all of you and I hope we can continue being so close as we keep growing. I appreciate every single volunteer for all of your help and enthusiasm for all the changes we’re going through.”

Marana leaders and team members will provide and/or raise all funding for this site. The Town Council just approved $150,000 for this year, and Pima County is providing $100,000 with unanimous support from the Board of Supervisors. Many Marana area businesses are already contributing.    

Our new Marana colleagues have shown the spirit of caring is alive and well in their community, and want to keep their commitment to helping those who need it. “They have been a joy to work with,” noted SFB-CRC board member Penny Pestle, “and we look forward to our future together.”

The Sahuarita Food Bank is committed to further develop new food resources throughout the region to ensure that both Marana and Sahuarita have enough food for all who need it.

As Veronica sums it up best: “Our sister organizations share a mission to build a stronger community, where we empower each other and help those in times of need.”

Welcome to the Family

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New School Fits CRC Mission

The Arizona State Board of Private Postsecondary Education on October 26 awarded our Community Resource Center licensing authority to begin issuing nationally recognized vocational school certificates through our new Saguaro Skills Center.

One of the most important components of our organization has been our commitment to not just feed the hungry, but to offer family support, health/nutrition, and workforce development (WFD) programs through our Community Resource Center. WFD classes have included line and prep cooking, certified nurse assistant and caregiving, and computer skills. Students develop skills in a 5-8 week program qualifying them for entry-level positions, which can launch them onto a career track, but it’s often a lower paying job.

Over the last nine months we have been working to create a new vocational school geared toward offering more robust training that is likely to lead directly to better paying positions. Those jobs will also allow for more tangible jump-starts into perhaps life-long career opportunities.

The first classes, 280-300 hour programs, are planned for the coming year. Saguaro Skills Center will offer Google IT certification through Coursera with local instructors, and Augmented Virtual Reality welding that earns the participant an N3C certificate from the National Coalition of Certification Centers. Ten have already committed to the welding program. Seven are women. There is a national shortage of skilled tradespeople, and bringing women into non-traditional career settings like welding will help fill that gap while providing livable incomes for them. Starting wages range from 36k to 58k.

Freeport McMoRan provided $114,000 in grant funding this past fall to support the program, and Carlos is excited to direct the Saguaro Skills Center with Sofia as registrar. “I believe so much in WFD,” Carlos declared, “that having a school to offer certification programs is my fondest hope for the workforce of the future.”

Stay tuned down the road for more updates regarding the new school.



New Board President

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SFB-CRC welcomed Roberta Lopez-Suter as its new board president November 17. For the last five years she has served as a board member, bringing her expertise as a marketing and communications executive at TRICO Electric Cooperative. A resident of Tucson, she has strong employment ties in Marana, making her the perfect person to chair the Marana Food Bank Advisory Board as well. Past president Penny Pestle will remain on the board of directors, focusing on strategic projects to increase SFB-CRC’s capacity to prepare participants for well-paying jobs.

Timely Award

We are thrilled to announce a $90,000 award from the White Elephant. This stalwart rock of our community distributed $1.8 million to more than 100 organizations this year, and we are certainly honored to be among them. The grant could not have come at a better time, considering the increase in the numbers of our food bank visitors, the need to buy food, and the increasing cost of operations. 

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