THE APPLE BASKET
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
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.
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.