Challenges and Triumphs
It all began 14 years ago with a tiny food closet. Like any successful journey in life, there have been challenges and sacrifices, but there also have been triumphs, tremendous growth, and dreams realized.
Sahuarita Food Bank & Community Resource Center has thanked so many for its already rich history. We continue to rely upon many more to help us maintain the high standards we have set for ourselves as we move forward with new focus.
Thanks to our volunteers who contributed 30,000 hours this past year—the equivalent of 15 full-time workers—and our small but very efficient staff, up until now SFB-CRC has been able to handle the great increase in the need for nutritious food for families, plus resources to help our clients improve their lives.
We now face the challenge of running a much larger facility along with the overwhelming response for wrap-around services and classes. We have added two new key staff members who will help us with these and further strategic objectives. You get the chance to meet them both in this edition of the Apple Basket
Over the next few months, you will witness the development of increased food programming with the economically vulnerable 7,000 person Summit community just south of the airport and Raytheon. You’ll hear about our increased outreach and collaboration with community-based organizations serving Arivaca, Amado, and other rural communities.
We will institute closer follow-up and coaching with students in our classes. We want them to feel that they are not just taking one class or receiving one service. We want to walk alongside them, working closely with them on their long-term plans, supporting their journeys to health, future education, employment, and economic well-being.
With the assistance of our partners, SFB-CRC has grown in numbers, as well as the breadth and depth of our services to the community. We are grateful to have the new building that has provided the physical capacity we needed for our work. It is now our privilege to share with our donors, supporters, staff, and volunteers the exciting journey ahead to face new challenges and triumphs as we renew our commitment to helping all those who want to create new lives or enhance their chances for a better one.
Already Missing Sam
Anchor volunteer Sam McElwaine has decided to retire after 14 years of dedicated service to SFB-CRC. She organized the kitchen for food distribution, ensuring there was adequate, safe, and nutritious food for our visitors. Sam always said her reason for volunteering was “I want to feed the people.” We will all miss Sam and her commitment to this organization.
Diabetes Cooking Classes
As part of our emphasis on health and nutrition, volunteers Alice Roper and Jennie Gaines work with up to seven students with pre-diabetes and diabetes in our commercial kitchen to create diabetes friendly meals. The weekly class comes up with recipes that include low-carb tasty soups, sweet potato purees, and even healthy desserts like yummy flour-free cookies made with just one egg, a sweetener, and pecans.
Google IT Scholarships
We have received 200 scholarships for our Google IT certificate program launching in March that will provide classes to prepare students for careers as IT help-desk professionals. These are well-paying jobs with the potential for more advanced IT employment. The six-hour class once a week for six months is the most intense of any program we have offered.
Adding Mental Health Intake
Extending our commitment to providing for healthy living, SFB-CRC will assist our participants or their family members in getting the help they need if they are suffering from behavioral health challenges. COPE Community Services will now be on site with a staff member for appointments to do intake that will lead to services offered at COPE’s local office in Green Valley. These could include therapy, meeting with a physician to discuss medication, support groups, and other services.
Medicaid Change Brings New Challenge
The pandemic suspended the requirement for Medicaid recipients to renew their coverage annually, but the federal government has re-established that qualification requirement starting April 1, so it presents new challenges. Since lower-income residents frequently move, we have invited a University of Arizona program to assist us weekly on-site to ensure that our food bank visitors will be informed of the change and will not lose coverage.
Welcome Juan to the Family
Juan Arredondo is SFB-CRC’s new warehouse lead.
Executive Director Carlos Valles over the last four years has seen his responsibilities steadily grow with the new building, the increase in food bank visitors, and the expansion of the Community Resource Center.
The Board decided to hire a warehouse lead person who could manage it, report on food acquisitions, and work with food sources as well as our dedicated volunteers. Juan applied and then stopped by one evening with his wife Azalea and their children Scarlet, 10, and Pablo, 7, to chat with Carlos and meet members of the staff and board.
It was obvious Juan was a serious applicant who wanted his family to see the opportunity and potential workplace so they would support his decision. After a formal interview, it was clear that Juan’s experience, values, and his commitment to the concept of a food bank and resource center align with ours.
Juan brings a wealth of experience from Blue Bell Creameries, plus 7 years working at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. His duties included warehouse and forklift operations, managing school pantry distribution, managing volunteers, reporting, and most importantly, a demonstrated dedication to respecting and helping those served by a food bank in the community.
SFB-CRC is very fortunate to bring Juan on board, and he has declared several times that he feels he has “joined our family.”
We feel the same way.
Graduates Take First Big Step
SFB-CRC’s first class of three Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) students graduated January 25. There was great joy in the room as family members and friends wished them success. They can now step onto new paths in the health care industry.
Mabby Sandoval, Veronica Gonzalez, and Shyla Paclibar completed the five-week class in the Health Sciences classroom, with instruction provided by the non-profit CareGiver Training Institute of Pima Council on Aging. Instruction included lectures and lots of practice in clinical skills with demonstration mannequins “Martha and Jose,” followed by a week shadowing CNAs at a rehab facility in Tucson.
Thanks to Pima County, SFB-CRC was able to cover the cost of full tuition for them. They will move on to take the state certification exam and can enter or re-enter the work force with enhanced skills that will allow them to forge a new career path, which is the goal for all our workforce development students.
Mabby Sandoval has been her family’s primary earner, working as an uncertified caregiver since the pandemic adversely affected the family business and income. Her household includes her mother and father and daughter. She came for food at SFB as the pandemic lingered and noted the CNA class available.
Committed to a vocation that allows her to help others, she is now focused on pursuing that dream. Once she receives certification, Mabby plans to work in the operating room at a Nogales hospital and then begin study to become an RN, which will afford her the opportunity to earn an excellent wage and economic security down the road for her and her family.
“I loved the class,” she remembers, “but the hard part was not having enough time to study during the day. So, I studied at night and didn’t sleep a lot, but it was so worth it!”
She laughed as she fondly recalled a car trip to California. “My daughter wanted to listen to music, but I listened to YouTube tutorials on CNA skills.”
She described SFB-CRC as her second home, and expressed gratitude to Pima County for the financial aid and the instruction from CareGiver Training Institute.
Mabby’s story provides hope and affords all of us a lesson in what a difference SFB-CRC and its partners can make in the lives of others as the Resource Center continues to welcome more students.
Valued Volunteer Joins Our Staff
After graduating from the University of Arizona with a major in human development, Sofia Castro accepted a position with Child and Family Resources working with families in Nogales. One of our food distribution volunteers over the last two years, she focused on registration and intake of new food bank visitors, working closely with Sue Eaton.
Her passion for education and learning and her sensitivity to challenges facing many who come to SFB-CRC attracted us to Sofia in our job search for a community resources coordinator. She’s bilingual and possesses talent in graphic design, a great asset in outreach and recruitment communications to bring students into our programs and classes.
As our new Community Resource Coordinator, Sofia will make contact with food bank clients and other organizations serving those who need skills and scholarship support to obtain new or better job situations. She will also reach out to rural neighbors in communities such as Summit, Arivaca, and Amado.
In less than two months, we’re happy to report that Sofia has already made a successful transition from valued volunteer to an invaluable member of the staff at SFB-CRC.
Just a reminder that you can help us anytime you shop Fry’s.
You will need a Fry’s VIP card to register for Fry’s Community Rewards. If you don’t have one, visit Fry’s to pick one up. Then…
Click the Fry’s graphic above. The Fry’s Community Rewards Program will open. Scroll down to the Link Your Shopper’s Card icon and click Log into Your Fry’s Account. If you don’t have an account, you will need to create one by clicking Create Account. Follow the screen prompts and find Sahuarita Food Bank or TQ827, then click Enroll, and remember to always swipe your Fry’s card each time you shop.