The Valley View Community Food Bank is back in Sun City.
The agency moved its main warehouse and distribution center to the Sun Bowl Shopping Center on the southwest corner of Peoria and 107th avenues. The new location is near one of Valley View’s two full thrift stores. The other is in Sun City West.
The move back to Sun City had an immediate impact, according to Jesse Ramirez, food bank founder and director.
“We had a flood of new clients come in from Sun City and the surrounding area,” he said.
Mr. Ramirez also credited the agency’s two thrift stores, and a small one in El Mirage, for the ability to make the move back to Sun City.
“The new location in Sun City is due to our thrift stores,” he said. “They are our main source of monetary income.”
Founded in 2007 in a small store front in Youngtown by Jesse Ramirez and his family, VVCFB grew to include food pantries at several sites, three thrift stores and a purchasing program — Feeding Arizona — that benefits both VVCFB and other small pantries, according to Marge Clark, Valley View board chairwoman.
“The program continues to grow,” she stated in a press release. “The next generation of the Ramirez family is following in their father’s footsteps and providing additional ideas and energy to the organization.”
After outgrowing the Youngtown location, Valley View moved to the former Safeway store on the southeast corner of Peoria and 107th avenues. The agency moved again when it lost the lease there in favor of another business, which also is no longer there. The location now houses the Lutheran Thrift Store, which made the space now occupied by Valley View available.
The food bank relocated to El Mirage following its expulsion from the first Sun City location. That site, 12321 NW Grand Ave., will continue to be the location of the Saturday farmer’s market, the daily food maintenance program and a small thrift shop, according to Ms. Clark.
More than 600,000 clients were served in 2018, according to Ms. Clark. Ninety-six thousand food boxes were provided to families at pantries in El Mirage, Youngtown and Surprise.
“A family of four would have spent more than $285 for the food in their box at their local grocery store,” Ms. Clark stated.
VVCFB also provided food to 11 programs, such as foster group homes, a homeless shelter and small food banks, serving an additional 17,500 people, according to Ms. Clark. About 400 seniors per week received extra produce and bakery items. Three hundred people per week take advantage of VVCFB’s maintenance program, where items are available at a greatly discounted price. Eighty or more visit the weekly farmers market to purchase low cost quality items.
“It is comforting to know people are getting help,” Mr. Ramirez said.
VVCFB gave school supplies, back packs and haircuts to 350 children and extra holiday food to more than 8,000, Ms. Clark stated. Families also received help with Christmas and Easter gifts.
“A donor makes it possible to provide gifts to grandparents who are parenting grandchildren,” Ms. Clark stated. “A representative is available weekly in the main pantry to assist clients find health care services.”
The Valley View Board of Directors in 2018 established “Jesse’s Fund” to enable Mr. Ramirez to give one-time special help to clients.
“The fund has been used to pay for motel rooms for homeless clients, buy gas cards and pay utility bills,” Ms. Clark stated.
Jesse’s Fund covered the remainder of a repair bill so that a two-worker family could finish paying for an engine replacement in their only car. The fund also assisted in paying part of a security deposit so that a homeless family could get into housing.
“Gifts from ‘Jesse’s Fund’ are always paid directly to the vendor,” Ms. Clark explained.
VVCFB receives some foundation grants but is mainly dependent upon the good will of the community to keep these programs going, Ms. Clark stated. The thrift stores in Sun City, Sun City West and El Mirage provide needed cash to fund overhead as well as making low-cost repurposed items available to clients and the community, she added.
VVCFB is supported by local service groups, churches, local businesses and individual contributions, according to Ms. Clark. Cash contributions are used to purchase staples, canned goods, meat and produce, she added. Organizational food drives are also a source of donated food.
VVCFB is operated primarily on volunteers. In the first six months of 2019, more than 800 volunteers helped the food bank in some way, according to Ms. Clark. Volunteers work in the panties, thrift shops and organize food drives and fundraisers. An in-house group of volunteers organize two large fundraisers per year, the Spring Fling and a November gala.