THE APPLE BASKET
Inflation is Just Rubbing Salt Into It
People working minimum wage jobs, many seniors on fixed incomes, and those who were already desperately hanging on are suddenly faced with runaway inflation that is cutting deeper and deeper into their incomes. SFB-CRC can see each week that it’s hurting them more and more, and it also adversely affects our ability to help them.
Although many more people are employed these days, the wages are often just too low to adequately support a family. Prior to the pandemic, 55 percent of Arizona households reported difficulty paying their bills. United Way says the average family can now expect a $311 extra financial burden in household expenses every month. Temporary increases in SNAP (food stamps) funding during the pandemic have stopped. An increase in the Child Tax Credit, part of the American Rescue Plan, ended in January. Food prices rose more than 10 percent over the last year, and that has meant the numbers seeking assistance from food banks like SFB are rapidly increasing. In the last month, we have added 60 households to our client database. Just since January, the number of seniors needing help with food has increased by 25 percent.
SFB-CRC Operations Manager Sue Eaton recalls receiving two calls on a recent Monday morning from individuals without transportation urgently seeking help as they had no food in the house over the weekend. Fortunately in this case DoorDash, which provides free delivery services on Mondays to our homebound clients, was able to get them a food package that day.
Sadly, SFB is struggling with inflation, too. Given this increased demand for help and the rising cost of purchased food, we were forced to cut milk and egg distributions to once a month, a change we hated to make. We also hate to ask for additional help from a community that already has supported us so faithfully, but at this time we no longer have the funds to purchase the food we need and we want to meet this new challenge of providing for the increased number of visitors.
We have always relied on the generosity of individuals and businesses that have consistently provided food and cash donations to keep us going. They have always stepped up when need was greatest.
SFB-CRC staff and volunteers would be so grateful for any cash or food donation you can make. Please consider sending a check to Sahuarita Food Bank; 17750 S. La Cañada; Sahuarita, AZ or call 520-777-7675 to find out how you can help.
Keep November 18 in your minds
SFB-CRC will soon announce details for its grand opening and open house for that date, 3 to 7 pm, in the local newspapers, KGVY, Facebook and through direct communication with our valued partners. We’ll be fully operational and want our hundreds of donors—from an eight-year-old girl who gave $25 to Pima County that contracted with us for over $800,000—to witness what their generosity has done for the community. All are welcome. It’s going to be a great event!
Reinventing Our Resource Center
Led by our new director, Adriana Romero, the Community Resource Center is quickly transforming itself into a critical one-stop hub for family support, health and nutrition programs, and workforce skill development that will help foster economic self-sufficiency.
Skilled in networking and devising media tools for creating interest, Adriana is also very well connected with the community and educators throughout southern Arizona. In the last 90 days we have recruited qualified teachers and facilitators, and classes have been rapidly filling up.
CRC’s July classes featured instruction in Word and Excel, cooking, and entrepreneurship for women, most taught in Spanish and English, as well as English Language Acquisition and PowerPoint with graphic design. Also available were First Smiles Matter dental screening for up to age 5 and expectant moms, Stay and Play, Child Care Resource and Referral, and behavioral parenting classes. A five-week CNA and certified caregiver class will make its debut in August.
“I decided to teach the Women’s Entrepreneurship class at the SFB-CRC for a couple of reasons,” explained new instructor Sagario Dyer. “I am an entrepreneur myself and have owned my own business for many years. I love running my own enterprise. I also love helping people.”
She wishes a class like this one was available for her when she was starting out.
“Developing goals, crafting a business plan, selecting a name, understanding tax and licensing requirements—all this would have been very helpful at the outset.”
Sahuarita Food Bank developed its reputation over 13 years of existence in this community as a crusader against hunger, now serving 10,500 people a year who struggle with food insecurity. With fresh space and equipment generated by the opening of the new facility in January and the addition of partners on site like Valley Assistance Services, Pima County, and Disabled American Veterans, it’s now the Community Resource Center’s turn to take off. It will build its own reputation as a source of significant services for those who can use them to build better lives.
Innovation and Early Preparation
SFB-CRC just learned we were selected and funded by Cox Communications as a “Cox Innovation Lab.” This is another way we can reach out to help people on their journeys to financial independence by elevating the odds of success for future generations of workers.
Computer and IT skills will continue to be essential for finding jobs and long-term career success. As a Cox Innovation Lab, SFB-CRC will be seeking to stimulate interest among youth in digital basics, coding, data entry, experiential learning with state-of-the-art digital equipment such as 3D printers, along with an introduction to career options in the field. Google and other certifications would become available.
The initial focus will be preparing 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders for middle school and high school IT classes, featuring robotics kits that allow them to program and construct five different robots from Legos. They will be introduced to digital art, basic use of 3D printers, and the emphasis will be on teamwork, experiential learning of basic principles, and of course, fun!
“We know that the earlier we begin with age-appropriate programming,” the official proposal reads, “the more students will embrace technology, digital skills, and be prepared for high school, technical training, and more advanced education. This will help lift the economic prospects for these students as digital competency is a priority for most jobs and career paths.”
The second phase of the program will focus on disconnected youth, also called opportunity youth, ages 16-24. These are young people not in school and not working, in need of guidance and encouragement to begin a career path. It may steer them toward an initial job or prompt them to continue at a community college or four-year college in digital technology and media, which could lead to a more lucrative career. The idea is to recruit students and instructors in the local area who want to be part of an initiative that Cox calls 34 by 34. The goal is to remove obstacles and expand access to programs that will help guide 34 million people to live more prosperous lives by 2034.
We’re honored to be selected, so look for more details in the next issue of Apple Basket as SFB-CRC continues to explore and eventually implement this exciting program right here in our community.
SFB-CRC Volunteer Scheduler Patti Carrell is driven, but remarkably flexible.
She describes her role as the juggler of 160 people performing 60 different tasks as “putting together a thousand piece puzzle, and then sometimes one third of the puzzle falls on the floor.”
A retired first grade teacher from Washington who also mentored new teachers, Patti’s a lap swimmer, hiker, birder, and artist with a daughter and grandchildren in Hawaii and two sons in Seattle. Her husband Gerald, a musician who plays with the Green Valley Concert Band, also volunteers with us as an instructor in the Community Resource Center.
She stepped up to take this on because she could see the burden and the stress it was putting on staff and other volunteers who already had too much on their plates. It has meant a lot of adjustment and hard work, but she’s highly organized and a systems thinker, plus recognizes the need to remain patient and compassionate.
Sometimes key people neglect to inform her they will be out of town for a month, or perhaps a new program is put into place with all good intentions, but the necessary volunteers haven’t been recruited. Some volunteers might want to work only a certain day or time, so she puts all her effort into accommodating and honoring those wishes. You’ll see her following up and checking on volunteers who might be out for a medical procedure or illness. Often it’s “nurturing” as much as scheduling, as she strives to build solid and consistent connections with a variety of personalities and preferences.
It’s a demanding job, but all our volunteers are special and always up to the challenge. Nobody keeps the pieces in place better than Patti Carrell.
Patti Puts the Puzzle Together
Join the SFB-CRC Dream Team
SFB-CRC started its dream in a tiny food pantry in The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, and some of those volunteers are still with us. We’ve come a long way toward realizing that dream, and we’ve brought a lot of selfless people along with us on that 13-year journey.
SFB-CRC is proud of its 160+ volunteer force, ranging from teens to folks in their 90s, covering roughly 60 different volunteer jobs. Some are retirees, and others thankfully share their free time. There are full-time and part-time working people who pitch in on their days off. Some are returnees from the Covid-restricted hiatus. Some serve alongside spouses or other family members.
They come to us in a variety of ways. SFB Board President Penny Pestle once signed up a college-age volunteer on a plane. A South Tucson high school teacher located SFB on-line under service organizations and will be bringing in students for “Service Saturdays” this fall. People living nearby watched the building go up and then decided to join, while others took a tour of the new facility and began the next day. Since we opened up in January, we have seen a steady stream of new and veteran prospects. They walk in, call us, and often refer other volunteers they know. Some are financial donors and some have received food assistance from food banks sometime in their lives and were grateful, so now they want to give back.
SFB-CRC also enjoys volunteer help from a number of churches, schools, and other organizations that perform after-hours cleaning duties and yard work, or stage food drives on our behalf. We also benefit from students who are gaining community service credits toward scholarships or seek hours in social service to enhance their career or educational experiences.
We find that our current volunteers are our best recruiters. They serve by example, and they’re also eager to share their experience with others who might be looking for a great opportunity for some fulfillment while keeping busy and contributing to the community. Some are responsible for the ever-growing numbers we see from the same neighborhoods.
Would you like to be part of our team, or do you know someone who might be interested? We’d love to hear from you. Check out sahuaritafoodbank.org, click on volunteer link, then scroll to the volunteer interest form. If you have questions, just call 520-777-7675.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could donate to a great cause, but it doesn’t even cost you anything? If you order from Amazon, you can provide a smile for hundreds of your neighbors in need. It’s easy and it’s free. Join participants in Sahuarita Food Bank’s Amazon Smile program that brought in $265 for our operation in the last quarter. Just sign up by clicking the Amazon Smile graphic. Click Get Started. Don’t forget to Google amazonsmile.com each time you shop.