One Small Voice
by Laura McGaffey
Articles originally published in "The Voice in the Desert"
Happy Anniversary, Food Basket!
In June, the Food Basket will be celebrating the first anniversary of the opening of their distribution site in Sunsites. Military veteran, Tim Mann has spent more than ten years working as a volunteer with community food banks. When he and his wife, Julie, moved to Elfrida in 2008, they opened the Food Basket (not to be mistaken for the Food Banks in Tucson and elsewhere). The Elfrida Fire Department offered them storage and distribution space and the Food Basket began distributing food, to those who find themselves in tough times, out of the EFD building.
In early 2010, forty Sunsites families were identified from their client list. After looking for an appropriate building, they opened the distribution site in Sunsites, which operates out of the community park Little League concession building on Treasure Road. Their client list now includes over 200 families from Sunsites and the surrounding area. Between the two distribution sites there are now 23 volunteers; 12 in Elfrida on Wednesdays and 11 in Sunsites on Thursdays.
Each Monday, Tim and Julie drive to the Food Bank in Tucson to pick up food for both sites. On Tuesday Tim drives to Sierra Vista where he purchases fresh onions, potatoes, and carrots. Each Wednesday morning Tim dries to Douglas to pick up whatever Wal-Mart has to donate through the Feed America program. Thursday mornings at 8:00, the amazing and dedicated volunteers gather at the Little League concession building on Treasure Road to sort and bag food for distribution. By the time Tim and Julie arrive, between 8:30 and 9:00, they have been on the road for a couple of hours picking up donations from merchants and local organic farmers. This delivery is quickly unloaded, sorted, and readied for distribution.
Clients begin arriving as early as 8:15 to sign in for their visit to the Food Basket. From 10:00 to Noon, a finely tuned assembly line quickly and steadily fills boxes and bags according to the size of the family. Other volunteers carry the boxes and bags to the clients’ vehicles.
The Food Basket is operated entirely by volunteers and exists solely on donations. Tim and Julie work a collective 80-hour week, usually driving up to 500 miles around Cochise County and to and from Tucson. When I asked if they receive pay Tim smiled and said, “Our pay is simple - the smiles on the faces of our clients.”
The goal of this program is to make a felt difference in the lives of people in Cochise County. Donations of cash, produce, and other food items are always needed and gladly accepted. They are also in need of a 16 foot covered trailer in order to transport food safely regardless of the weather.
The Food Basket operates under the 501c3 tax-exempt status of the Seventh Day Adventist Church of Sunsites. Qualification for the program is based on family size and total income. If you know of someone in a tight spot have visit them the park any Thursday morning and check in with the volunteer at the table in the breezeway.
Any Thursday this June, please join the Food Basket in a celebration of their first year serving the struggling families of Sunsites and surrounding communities. Visit the Food Basket between 8:30 and Noon, to say “Thank you” to Tim, Julie, and all the volunteers. If you can, please slip a donation into the jar on the sign-in table. You never know when you may be in line asking for a little help stretching your food budget to the end of the month.