Barbara McClure, Executive Director of IMPACT of Southern Arizona
Many thousands of people in Southern Arizona are just getting by, at various levels of stability, lacking the resources and confidence to reach an improved quality of life that includes greater self-sufficiency. During the pandemic, more than 60 million Americans turned to food banks for assistance. Of the households with an employed member, nearly half earn less than $20,000 a year. Imagine covering rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, medical, and all the other family costs on such minimal earned income!
Just before COVID struck, IMPACT had been planning a new program to help move people forward. It is back on the table and now a core part of our current five-year strategic plan, an important focus of our mission work, and a significant shift in our purpose. We want people to utilize our incredible food bank as a tool to enjoy better health and to stretch their household budgets, but we don’t want them to linger long term, struggling with food insecurity and deficiencies in other basic needs.
People come to IMPACT of Southern Arizona due to various life circumstances. In 2022, we will be addressing the root cause of each situation and helping clients find their personalized pathway forward. The launch of our new IMPACT initiative is just weeks away, and we expect to bolster 60 households in the first 12 months, setting them off on a life-changing journey, with the plan to build capacity each year to continue this important work. We are confident we have the ability to improve lives, inspire futures, and give hope through collaboration with, and support from, our incredibly generous community partners.
A new relationship with Pima Community College is especially exciting. Thanks to them and other trainers and educators, funding foundations, and donors like you, we will be moving people into high-demand careers with earnings starting at $40,000 to $50,000 per year in less than six months! An investment of $1,400 funds a 12-week certification course in robotics or auto technology. Industry certifications such as cybersecurity and ever-growing IT areas are also available. These high-tech industries exist in Pima and Pinal County today, paying upwards of $100,000 per year, and are looking for more employees, expanding their facilities, and attracting similar employers to our region. There are infinite opportunities, and IMPACT has the community relationships to connect people to incredible resources!
Of course, landing a job is not enough to move people out of poverty. It is only part of the journey. Our holistic approach to addressing all factors needed to be in place for success helps ensure our clients will be able to keep that job and thrive in a new career. Does the person have reliable transportation to get to work? Do they have the funds to buy special gear or required uniforms? Do they currently have a working phone? Workshops on money management, budgeting, and training on the expectations of employees in these types of positions will all be part of the support provided, and it will continue until the family is stabilized and settled into their new lifestyle. As with all our IMPACT programs, staff will work with specially trained volunteers called Community Navigators. These individuals will work one-on-one with families and our new IMPACT Client Advocate social worker, checking in to see how they are progressing, offering support and encouragement each step of the way. Many of you may find this volunteer opportunity a unique way to give back and be part of the ripple of change intended to reduce poverty in our community.
If you have not yet selected a charity with whom to invest your AZ Tax Credit or RMD, please consider becoming one of our IMPACT partners in this exciting endeavor. It only takes four $400 tax credit donations to change the lives of an entire family in a meaningful way, forever! Find out more about how it all works at impactsoaz.org/mpf (mpf is short for “moving people forward”). On this special web page, you will also be able to send a message or ask questions and learn about our upcoming IMPACT Expo, bringing people together for a community conversation around poverty. Save the date of March 1, 2022. There are many different ways to get involved; join IMPACT in giving hope!