Stories of Scottsdale support offer shining light of hope during novel coronavirus pandemic

Vista Del Camino is lifeline to thousands as Charro Foundation fuels effort


On a Wednesday in the last week of April 2020, the Scottsdale outreach and nonprofit community --- through the support of the United Food Bank --- distributed more than 8,700 pounds of food to those in need a part of the Scottsdale Schools family.

For many local families during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, distribution of nutritious meals at the Vista Del Camino Food Bank, 7700 E. Roosevelt St., in south Scottsdale is a lifeline of paramount proportions in uncertain economic times.

But the vision of community service realized today in Scottsdale was founded, in concept, in 1975 by local community advocate Francis Young.

What today is now an intricate outreach services community in Scottsdale was once a figment of imagination --- but as the spread of the novel coronavirus continues --- the empathetic approach to community service is proving vital.

“Scottsdale Community Partners was founded by community activist Francis Young in 1975 and was at the time known as Concerned Citizens for Community Health,” said Jenny Adams, who serves as Scottsdale Community Partners executive director.

“Francis was a resident of south Scottsdale and began to see the need for human services in the Scottsdale community. We partnered with the City of Scottsdale 45 years ago to provide basic needs assistance to Scottsdale’s most-vulnerable citizens. Through our partnership with Scottsdale Human Services, we are able to provide funding and volunteer assistance for a variety of programs designed to help in-need youth, families and seniors including rent, utility, and food assistance.”

The Scottsdale Community Partners is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization charged with serving the most vulnerable populations of the local community. Turns out, not all who call The West’s Most Western Town home are affluent.

About 9%, or just over 21,000 residents, live below the poverty line in Scottsdale. Poverty is defined as a gross annual income less than $21,954 for a family of four, according to the latest Census figures.

According to Independent Newsmedia archives, more than 6,000 children enrolled at the Scottsdale Unified School District are on a free or reduced-cost lunch program. There are just over 23,000 students enrolled at SUSD, officials say.

“Our food assistance programs include the Healthy Packs Program, which is a weekly food supplementation to Scottsdale Unified School District students, and the Brown Bag Food Program, which is a weekly food supplementation to seniors,” Ms. Adams points out.

“In addition, we have several special programs including Back to School, which provides school supplies and clothing to students, Adopt a Family and Adopt a Senior, which provide holiday gifts and meals to families and seniors, and the Beat the Heat Program, which provides supplies and grocery gift cards to homebound seniors during the brutal summer months.”

A formalized agreement with the City of Scottsdale, Ms. Adams contends, is a model for how public-private partnerships can work for the everyday people of a community. During the time of the novel coronavirus, the partnership provides a lifeline for those in need. “We have a formal partnership with the City of Scottsdale that serves as a model for how city governments and nonprofits can combine resources to best provide for their citizens,” Ms. Adams said.

“The city administers our shared programs, including screenings of clients, logistics, storage and administration, and Scottsdale Community Partners, as a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit, is able to accept donations that qualify for the AZ charitable giving program.”

Ms. Adams says due to the municipal agreement more good can be accomplished.

“Because of this partnership, we are able to keep our overhead very low, allowing the vast majority of our funding to go directly back to the community,” she said. “In addition, we have a committed, working board of directors that supplies hundreds of volunteer hours to help administer our shared programs.”

A present and growing need

Scottsdale resident Denny Brown, an appointed member of the Scottsdale Human Services Commission, is on the ground serving those in need.

“Food arrives and I freak out,” he said of his daily excitement of the daily food distributions at the Vista Del Camino Food Bank, where a typical year would see more than 30,000 food boxes distributed to local residents.

But as the global pandemic continues need has seen, in some areas, a seismic increase for food donations Valley-wide, and Mr. Brown says, the community of Scottsdale is no different.

“I have produce, OK. I have bread, OK. I have milk, eggs and frozen meat,” he said of his typical ritual of examining incoming donations. “On Wednesday, April 29, the City of Scottsdale distributed more than 8,700 pounds of food from United Food Bank to families now benefiting from the Healthy Pack program. Apples, oranges, fresh tomatoes, milk, eggs, tea bags, frozen chicken and more thanks to Vista del Camino staff and many other city employees for their dedication.”

Ms. Adams explains Scottsdale residents are facing needs on a day-to-day basis, just like thousands of other Valley residents.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about Scottsdale is that there is no poverty, or that poverty only affects the south end. That is simply not true. Scottsdale has families living in poverty throughout the city. We have wide geographic participation in our programs,” she said. “Over 350 students from schools throughout the city participate in our Healthy Packs Program --- a weekly food supplementation program for students that school staff have deemed as being the most at-risk for food insecurity.”

Ms. Adams points out staggering numbers of need for nutritious meals in a community many from the outside assume is only for the affluent.

“Our Brown Bag Program supplies 250 low-income seniors each week with food supplementation,” she explained. “Our Back to School Program provides 1,100 low-income students with the supplies, clothing, and shoes they need to start the school year. Our holiday programs provide holiday gifts and meals to low-income kids and seniors. These programs have residents enrolled from every corner of Scottsdale.”

Community heroes answer the call

Within the daily reports of confirmed COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death toll, stories of community perseverance oftentimes emerge amid the day-to-day reporting of the global pandemic.

For nearly 60 years, the Scottsdale Charros have been instrumental supporters of those in need and in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

This current grant year, through The Charro Foundation, the Scottsdale Charros provided Scottsdale Community Partners with two consecutive $2,500 grants to cover the costs of an industrial refrigerator and provide general assistance to those in need.

“The fridge was a bit of an emergency,” said Dennis Robbins, who serves as executive director at the Scottsdale Charros.

“Vista had just received a large shipment of food and they did not have a place to store cold items and didn’t want the donated food to spoil. So, Denny Brown reached out to me and made the request for funding the purchase of a refrigerator. Subsequently, Vista also needed a freezer and we were able to help out with that as well.”

As Mr. Brown puts it, “Dennis is the man!”

“Last summer, we were doing our Summer Emergency Food Distribution for SUSD and our world changed,” Mr. Brown recalled of the emergency situation.

“A year or so ago, in a conversation with ‘Gene the Machine’ from Vista, we realized that with a larger freezer, we could start providing more protein through the food bank. I called Dennis Robbins from the Charros. The Charros immediately said we can help, and Bill Murphy (Human Services director) at the city helped to facilitate the donation for the refrigerator.”

For Mr. Robbins, his goal during the difficult economic times is that the philanthropic group can continue its mission.

“In my role, I want to make certain the Scottsdale Charros can continue our mission to promote Scottsdale through funding and support of youth, education and charitable causes,” he said. “Our Spring Training baseball revenue was sharply reduced this year; however, we are working very hard to continue to fund our charity and education partners during our charitable grant cycle this year.”

Ms. Adams says in times of crisis, the outreach community is a lifeline of countless in the Valley of the Sun.

“It is our lifeblood,” she said of private donations made like the one from the Scottsdale Charros.

“We only exist and are only able to offer the programs we offer because of the immense generosity of community organizations, faith communities, and citizens. Without donations from these groups, we would not be able to provide the level of assistance we do. We are humbled by the generosity we receive.”

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