Nonprofits fill role helping Yumans "live better lives"

By Joyce Lobeck Photos courtesy of Crossroads Mission and Arizona Community Foundation of Yuma



Alberta Newspaper Group


According to one source, there are more than 600 registered nonprofits in the Yuma area. Some of them may no longer be active, perhaps started by one person for a limited cause they were passionate about. But many nonprofits are longstanding organizations in the community, providing valuable services that enrich the lives of its residents. Together, they have a huge impact, said Veronica Shorr, regional director of the Arizona Community Foundation of Yuma. They touch the lives of all ages and all walks of life with a wide range of services from emergency shelter and food to healthcare, education, youth development and cultural enrichment. “They’re good for the community,” said Shorr. “Some provide specific services to people in need, such as the Food Bank and Crossroads Mission. People go to them for help with their health, for clothing, for food. Others help everyone. The hospital is a nonprofit (not-for-profit), the airport, United Way, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. The Salvation Army is helping the city with the migrant crisis. So many do great work in the community.” That was really brought home to her recently with site visits to the various nonprofits in the community that receive funding through the Arizona Community Foundation, Shorr said. Live Steamers provides train rides that bring enjoyment to the community; Sanguinetti House offers an historic image of Yuma; Humane Society focuses on animals, providing shelter and a spay and neuter clinic; YMCA works with cancer survivors; Old Souls takes in older animals; Children’s Museum offers learning activities for children. “They all provide services to the community that enrich the lives of everyone,” Shorr said. “They help people in need become better people. They transform the community and make it a better place for all.” She related that she grew up in Yuma, the recipient of some of those same services. “Thanks to that help, I’m now a healthy adult.” One thing about Yuma, the area’s nonprofits not only support different needs, they also support each other, noted Shara Whitehead, president and CEO of the Yuma Community Food Bank. The Food Bank acts as a conduit into the community by supporting those qualified 501C3 nonprofits with donated and purchased food and other resources that they may not be able to provide to those who come to their doors, she said. “Each year, we receive and donate an average of 12 million pounds of food to various partners, such as Crossroads Mission, Catholic Community Services, Safehouse, Adventist and WACOG Somerton and San Luis Senior Centers,” she said. “That is more than 10 million meals to working families, seniors, veterans and active duty military.” Because many of the nonprofit partners are not large enough to obtain grants, Whitehead said, YCFB can also provide access to restricted grant funding to help with capacity building. During times of natural or manmade disasters, the Yuma Community Food Bank is part of COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster) by responding and providing warehousing for equipment or other necessities to be staged when catastrophe strikes. Meanwhile, the staff and volunteers at Crossroads Mission work around the clock to meet the needs of the homeless, families in need and those in search of a better tomorrow. There they can find a hot meal, shelter, a place to cool off on a hot summer day, help battling their addiction demons and rebuilding their lives. “They always have a place to come,” said Barbara Rochester, public affairs director. “We serve three hot meals a day. We’re open 24 hours a day … we never close. If we can’t help them, we’ll refer them to other agencies.” The needs are tremendous, she said, noting that the 100bed family shelter currently has 86 women and children staying there and 150 men are staying in the men’s shelter. “We do 50 loads of laundry a day – blankets, clothing, getting kids ready for school.” Without the mission, the homeless would be on the street, Rochester said. On a side note, she said when people encounter panhandlers, they should advise them they can go to the mission to be fed and cared for; their pets will even be cared for. “Panhandlers do have a place to go.” Miguel Salcedo is seen during a site visit at Old Souls. But the mission couldn’t do what it does without the support of the community and the assistance of other nonprofits, businesses and individuals, whether a dentist providing free dental care to a homeless veteran, a tire store donating tires so a breadwinner can get to work, Humane Society providing pet food, hunters donating their game meat, the Assistance League outfitting children with school clothes – the list goes on. “Yuma is so generous,” Rochester said. “Anytime we don’t have something, we can call someone else and they’ll start looking for it. We work as a team. It’s just amazing how we can take care of a family and move on to the next family.” Shorr described a nonprofit organization as “a business with a social service focus.” There’s no way to put a dollar value on those services, whether it’s a blood drive by Red Cross, church services, reading programs offered by Adult Literacy Plus, Helping Hands of Yuma enabling senior citizens to remain in their homes, Saddles of Joy providing physical and emotional therapy through interaction with animals or the enrichment brought by a ballet performance or orchestra concert. But there are some things Shorr can put a dollar value on. She noted that close to $1 billion is invested in the Yuma community through such sources as foundations, school partnerships and government contracts. In addition, Arizona Community Foundation of Yuma distributes nearly $1 million a year from its local donors to various charities and causes in the Yuma community. The nonprofit sector also adds significant value to the local and state economy through paying taxes, making payroll and buying supplies from local vendors. A study funded by the Arizona Community Foundation in 2016 found that nonprofits generate 8 percent of the Gross State Product, accounting for $22.4 billion in wages, goods, services and their ripple effect throughout the economy. They employ 167,000 paid staff, paying $7.7 billion in direct wages, and are responsible for an additional 158,000 indirect/induced jobs. More than 72 percent of nonprofit revenue is generated by earned revenue such as from thrift stores and Girl Scout cookie sales, membership dues, fees for services, special events income and contracts. Donations account for another 27 percent of Arizona nonprofits’ annual revenue. Nonprofits aren’t necessary tax-exempt and generate 9.5 percent – $2.1 billion – of all state and local tax income. To get involved, Shorr said, “start with what you’re passionate about. Look into that nonprofit, call and ask how you can help. United Way is a good place to start. It has programs that always need people. The Food Bank is always a good place. No matter your passion or skills, there’s a place to help.” Some people give of their time, others their financial support, they donate items, lend out a building or cater an event for free. “Time, money and talent,” she concluded. “Nonprofits interconnect with the community. They touch everyone’s lives. When we support them, that comes back to us as we help our fellow residents live better lives.” 