Angel Charity for Children event will help eight Tucson nonprofits

Local “angels” are upping the fundraising ante for eight local nonprofits with the 2018 Big Deal Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament, Casino & Dance Club on Aug. 25.

“Angel Charity for Children is an all-volunteer nonprofit that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children in Pima County, and the need is so overwhelming that we decided to step up and meet as much of it as we could,” said Mary Lou Martin, who is co-chairing the event with Lisa Owens-Sredzinski under chairwoman Jeannie Nguyen. “We narrowed it down to eight agencies, which is the most we have funded in a year during our 35-year history.”

Since its inception in 1983, Angel Charity for Children has raised $26 million to fund 80 different agencies that have impacted 1 million children in Southern Arizona.

“The nonprofits we fund benefit kids through human and social services, education, health and medical services and performing arts and fine arts,” said Martin.

The primarily 2018 beneficiary is Tucson Village Farm, which will receive $445,000 to facilitate The Angel Charity Culinary Education Center for Children, a commercial kitchen that will provide programs and services to an estimated 17,000 children annually.

Other 2018 beneficiaries include More Than A Bed; Gabriel’s Angels; First Tee of Tucson; Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation; SAAVI Services for the Blind; Tucson Soccer Academy and Candlelighter’s Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Tucson Village Farm is thrilled about the partnership with Angel Charity, says Elizabeth Sparks, Tucson Village Farm 4-H assistant youth development agent.

“We are over-the-moon excited about the grant from Angel Charity for Children. This gift will enable us to build a commercial teaching kitchen where we can make and sell products that will allow for sustainability of the Tucson Village Farm as well as provide new programs for the community,” Sparks said. “It will be a terrific resource for residents of Pima County, especially the youngest residents who will learn to prepare healthy meals inside this new space.”

Sparks said the seed-to-table program teaches children to young adults how to plant seeds, grow vegetables and prepare fresh food, empowering them to make healthy lifestyle choices. Tucson Village Farm grows 99 varieties of vegetables, ranging from tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant to okra, lettuce and Swiss chard. The farm also boasts an orchard with apples, plums and citrus.

“We know that only two out of every 100 kids are eating their recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables; 98 percent are not getting the recommended daily allowance, which is staggering,” Sparks said. “These are vegetables that we know can prevent disease down the road. If we can get kids to eat fruits and vegetables, that will make our community healthier,”

Improving long-term community health is also a goal of More Than A Bed Foster and Adoptive Family Resource Center, said co-founder Grace Stocksdale.

The nonprofit, which qualifies for the Arizona Foster Care Charitable Tax Credit for 2018, provides supplies and resources to foster, kinship and adoptive families in Tucson.

Angel Charity for Children has committed $50,000 to enable More Than A Bed to provide twin beds, bunkbeds, dressers and new underwear for children.

“The tagline that we put on everything is, ‘Every child deserves to be valued,’” said Stocksdale.

“In the case of kinship fostering, there are many times that kinship families are not prepared to receive extra children, and that is when we help provide them with beds or cribs they need to help the children feel valued.”

She said the average cost of preparation for placement for a child is between $200 and $800 and that many families are unable to afford beds and other items in addition to everyday necessities.

Additionally, Stocksdale said while prospective foster parents are required to obtain age-appropriate items necessary for child care during the licensing process, in cases of kinship placements with relatives or friends, there are no such requirements.

“The rules are different for kinship: They want the children to have a roof over their heads, so there are 5-year-old kids who are sleeping with auntie and her boyfriend, which is not a good thing. … The stories of what these kids have already gone through just by being removed from the only home they know are just horrendous, and we do our best to try to make any little difference in their lives that we possibly can,” Stocksdale said.

More Than A Bed provides not only children’s furniture and new mattresses, but also a wide range of gently-used baby supplies (cribs, car seats, diapers, high chairs), clothing, shoes, household items, toys and more. The items are kept in a warehouse staged like a department store where families can shop at no charge.

This year the warehouse will serve at least 450 families, which translates into more than 1,000 children.

Stocksdale said generous donors like Angel Charity have allowed the nonprofit to contend with a 300 percent increase in need from new families over the past year.

“Angel Charity for Children has given us a tremendous boost; I can’t rave about them enough. They have enabled us to make sure we can buy beds, dressers and new underwear over the next year. They are truly a blessing to the children in Southern Arizona,” she said.

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