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  • County employees provide support for Interfaith Community Services

    Editor's Note: For the next few months, eScoop will highlight a nonprofit as an example of a class of nonprofits that benefit from annual employee ECAP contributions, including those organizations that directly support County programs, operations or missions.

    The sounds of friendly conversations fill the air as some two dozen people queue up on a Wednesday morning at the Interfaith Community Services Food Bank on Tucson’s northwest side. Staffers joke and swap stories with clients as they hand out emergency food bags before guiding their new friends to thfood banke bulk grocery area where they can choose from an assortment of bread, canned goods, produce and other foods as well as hygiene items and toiletries. Jars of peanut butter and spaghetti sauce are most in demand.

    “With that and a package of noodles you can feed a family of four or more,” said Food Bank Coordinator Curt Balko. “We see all types of people coming through here. Most of them are really good people who are only here because they have a need.”

    ICS is one of more than 200 non-profit organizations that receive financial support from Pima County staff through the Employees Combined Appeal Program (ECAP). ECAP contributions support 35 faith-based groups:

    Alive Christian Fellowship
    9662 N. La Cholla Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85742

    Annual Catholic Appeal – Diocese of Tucson
    PO Box 31, Tucson, AZ 85702

    Bishops Appeal Diocese of Tucson
    64 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85701

    Caring Ministries, Inc.
    820 W. Calle Sur, Tucson, AZ 85705

    Casa Maria
    401 E. 26th St., Tucson, AZ 85713

    Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona. Inc.
    140 W. Speedway Blvd., Ste. 230, Tucson, AZ 85705

    Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Tucson
    64 E. Broadway Blvd. Tucson, AZ 

    Catholic Social Services Counseling Services
    140 W. Speedway Blvd., Ste. 230, Tucson, AZ 85705
    520-623-0344, x. 7004

    Child Evangelism Fellowship
    5956 E. 30th St., Tucson, AZ 85711

    Christian Family Care Agency
    6063 E. Grant Rd., Tucson, AZ 85712

    Christian Scholarship Fund of Arizona
    P.O. Box 31101, Tucson, AZ 85751
    Phone: 520-322-0966, x. 30

    Church on the Street
    P.O. Box 7863, Tucson, AZ 85725

    Crosspoint Lutheran Church
    2285 E. Sahuarita Rd., Sahuarita, AZ 85629

    Gospel Rescue Mission
    707 W. Miracle Mile, Tucson, AZ 85705

    Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging
    2221 N. Rosemont Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85712

    Jewish Family and Children’s Services
    4301 E. Fifth St., Tucson, AZ 85711

    Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest
    6303 E. Tanque Verde Rd., Ste. 101, Tucson, AZ 85715

    Lutheran Social Ministry of the Southwest
    6303 E. Tanque Verde Rd., #101, Tucson, AZ 85711

    Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest
    6303 E. Tanque Verde Rd., Ste. 101, Tucson, AZ 85711

    Pio Decimo Center
    848 S. Seventh Ave., Tucson, AZ 85701

    Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School
    1436 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719

    Salpointe Catholic High School Scholarship Fund1545 E. Copper St., Tucson, AZ 85719

    San Miguel High School
    6601 S. San Fernando Ave., Tucson, AZ 85756

    Santa Cruz Catholic School
    29 W. 22nd St., Tucson, AZ 85713

    The Salvation Army - Southern Arizona
    1001 N Richey Blvd
    P.O. Box 43790, Tucson, AZ 85716

    St Augustine's Project Cross
    192 S. Stone Ave., Tucson, AZ 85701

    St. Elizabeth’s Health Center
    140 W. Speedway Blvd., #100, Tucson, AZ 85705

    St. Francis in the Foothills
    4625 E. River Rd., Tucson, AZ 85718

    St. Luke's Home
    615 E. Adams St., Tucson, AZ 85705

    St. Thomas Moore Newman Catholic Student Center
    1615 E. Second St., Tucson, AZ 85719

    St. Vincent de Paul Society, Tucson
    820 S. Sixth Ave., Tucson, AZ 85701

    Teen Challenge of Arizona, Inc.
    PO Box 5966, Tucson, AZ 85703

    Tucson Jewish Community Center
    3800 E. River Rd, Tucson, AZ 85718

    Beyond the food bank, ICS offers a wide range of services from financial and employment assistance and education to caregiving, transportation, health advocacy and mental health education and outreach. ICS also provides delivery of nutritious food to homebound individuals - seniors and those with physical challenges - on Tucson’s north and northwest sides with their “mobile meals” program.

    “I think it’s wonderful that Pima County employees invest so much in their community,” ICS Philanthropy and Public Relations Director Deborah Carr said. “By helping people in a time of need get beyond crisis and to a path of self-reliance and lessening their dependence on public services saves the community money and helps make a better future for all of us. We’re grateful to be part of the ECAP campaign.”

    The monthly allotment of items ICS Food Bank visitors receive will fill their pantries for only a few days. It’s the reality for thousands of food-insecure families and individuals in our community.

    Roughly 18 percent of County residents and 98 percent of ICS clients live below the Federal Poverty Level. Many are working poor families who lack health insurance or who either are waiting for public health care or don't qualify. Often, they live on the edge of homelessness.

    “Being in poverty and focused on survival is exhausting,”  said Carr. “It’s hard work. If you don’t have a car, for instance, you have to get kids to the bus stop. You have to build in extra time to do the most mundane things. What most people consider minor tasks often are major productions.”

    ICS opened its 2,700-square-foot food bank facility in October 2011 on its main campus on Ina Road next to Christ the King Episcopal Church thanks, in large part, to a Community Development Block Grant provided by Pima County. It’s now the largest food pantry in Southern Arizona and a significant upgrade from its 400-square-foot predecessor. More space has allowed ICS to help more people. Along with the food bank it also operates on the campus of New Spirit Lutheran Church, 8701 E. Old Spanish Trail, ICS distributed 2.9 million pounds of food to 32,215 people in 2017 alone.

    “My goal is when someone walks in the front door, if they’re only here for 10 minutes, we should make it the best 10 minutes of their month,” Balko said.

    The ICS food bank program recently extended its reach into the community with the introduction of produce giveaways in collaboration with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.  Excess fruits and vegetables are obtained from distributors in Nogales, then distributed at the ICS offices on the northwest and south sides.

    “It keeps food from going into the landfill and puts it in the hands of people who can really use it while, at the same time, helping them to build healthier diets,” Carr said. "With the mobile food pantry program, we can  get beyond our walls and meet people where they are, getting food to children and adults who might not otherwise be physically able to get to one of our food banks."

    The food banks often serve as the entryway for clients to learn about the other programs ICS offers.

    “When they come in we will tell them about our job resources center or the emergency financial assistance program,” Carr said. “They often don’t realize the gamut of things we can provide.”

    During the 2017-2018 ECAP Campaign, 248 County staffers earmarked $42,777 to go to 33 faith-based organizations. Included in that sum was $1,518 that ICS received from 13 County employees. An interesting note: the group itself is a social services agency that partners with 106 congregations of all faiths and helps coordinate many of their benevolence activities. More than half of the more than 850 volunteers who make ICS work come from Pima County’s churches, mosques, synagogues and temples.

    Carr said all of the programs offered by ICS share a common goal: to help their clients improve their lives and become self-sufficient and independent.

    “Our philosophy is ‘just because you’re in one place, doesn’t mean you have to stay there.”

    For more information about how to donate through ECAP or to join the ECAP Committee, contact Committee Chairs Ray Velez, 520-724-4489, and Margo Chavez, 520-724-9169.

    Nonprofits to be featured in eScoop over the coming months include those that assist the County in carrying out its mission as well as nonprofits representing the following areas: Health, Youth, Literacy, Housing, Hunger, and Family Support.
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