Wes moved to Arizona in 2017 for a fresh start. His car broke down right outside of Flagstaff and he didn’t have enough money to fix it up, so he was stuck. He struggled to find work, so found himself homeless for the first time in his life. Spending his nights at the Flagstaff Shelter Services and his days working odd jobs to make ends meet, sometimes resorting to asking for money on street corners, Wes needed a change.
Wes found the Flagstaff Family Food Center and started volunteering daily at the Kitchen, handing out sandwiches and snacks through the Backdoor Lunch Program. He soon became a valued volunteer and took on the role of “Parking Lot Attendant,” helping to make the Kitchen a safe place for families to come together for a meal.
When Wes found the Flagstaff Family Food Center, he found a productive way to spend his time and gain experience for his resume – but, more importantly, he found a community.
“The people that come here to eat, when they get to the lot, automatically they know… it’s like you’re going to your grandma’s house,” Wes says. “You’re going to have a seat, you’re going to have a good meal, you’re going to have great conversations. And you can eat as much as you want. All we ask is that you only take what you need because there’s someone behind you in line. This is unique, it’s really unique. Here, no one goes away hungry.”
In October, Wes got a call that he was approved to move into an apartment: the first home he had to call his own in over two years.
“It’s easy to take but I think it’s even easier to give back. And that’s what my whole mission was: to come here, volunteer, and to give back. And it just seems like everything now is having a domino effect, in a positive way. And I believe that if I would have done anything else with my time – anything else – I wouldn’t be in this position now. And it started here.”
Have you heard of the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit? Maybe you’ve heard of it, but have some questions? We get it – it can be confusing! We are by no means financial advisers and encourage everyone to consult with their tax preparer prior to filing, but here are some simple answers to the most commonly asked questions we hear:
Q: Why is a tax credit better than a deduction?
A: A tax deduction lowers the amount of income you can be taxed on, lowering your tax liability by a certain percentage. But a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar lowering of the amount of taxes you have to pay. So, if you owe $400 in state taxes and donate $400 to the Flagstaff Family Food Center, you will owe nothing to the state!
Q: What is the maximum contribution?
A: The maximum contribution for an individual is $400 and $800 for married couples filing jointly.
Q: When is the last day I can make my Arizona Charitable Tax Credit Contribution?
A: You must make your donation to a qualifying organization by the time you file your taxes. Tax Day is April 15, 2020.
Q: Is the Flagstaff Family Food Center a qualifying organization?
A: Yes, we sure are! That means that we were vetted by the state to ensure that over 50% of our clients served are below the poverty level and that your generous donation will go towards helping local families in need.
Q: Can I give to my child’s school and the Flagstaff Family Food Center?
A: Yes! Tax credits for contributions to Qualifying Charitable Organizations are in addition to and completely separate from the Public School Activity Tax Credit and Private School Tuition Tax Credit – you can participate in all of them in the same tax season.
You can donate up to $400 to the Flagstaff Family Food Center if filing individually or up to $800 if married filing jointly.
Put your tax dollars to work for families in need in Northern Arizona.
Remember, for every $1 you donate up to the limit, you can get $1 back.
After Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Giving Tuesday, a day when people across the world give back to causes they care about. Leading up to this global day of giving, we wanted to know why our volunteers give their time to the Flagstaff Family Food Center. We got some great responses! Here’s just a sampling of them:
“To help those in need.”
“To make a difference in my community & I know what it’s like to need help.”
“Because it’s a great organization that helps families.”
“To get away from my husband.” 😉
Thank you to all our amazing volunteers who help us feed families 365 days a year!
No matter where or how you celebrate the holidays, we all have family traditions that make this season special. For long-time Flagstaff Family Food Center volunteer, Merna, and her family, those traditions are centered around cooking a festive, bountiful meal together. Even the youngest family members, Merna’s five year-old twin nieces, pitch in. It’s really important to Merna that the girls get to help her roll out pie dough and tear up bread for stuffing. “That was done for me when I was young, so I want them to have the same experience,” Merna says. Merna took her nieces in when her brother was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident, bringing her household size to six. Merna says it’s hard to care for that many people on a fixed income, and even more challenging during the holidays when visiting relatives will add five more mouths to feed, including her son and daughter who respectively serve in the Navy and Air Force. “It’s a big deal to have them home for the holidays and I want to make it special.”
Merna has been volunteering at the Food Bank for years and started needing food assistance when she took in her brother’s children. Around the same time, her sister started having health problems and Merna became her caretaker. As the sole care provider, Merna says that “this year I just need the help.”
“You’re clipping coupons, you’re doing everything you can to make it work,” but sometimes it’s just not enough to make ends meet. As a volunteer at the Food Bank, helping load cars with family food boxes and produce, Merna knows how hard it can be for people to ask for help. “People are embarrassed to ask for help, especially around the holidays.” Merna says the additional stress the holidays bring can be overwhelming – and is common for many families here in Flagstaff. “I actually made myself sick from the stress,” she says. “For a lot of families, the stress is the hardest part.”
This year, Merna is planning on getting her Thanksgiving turkey from the Food Bank and tells us that it will make all the difference in her holiday budgeting. “It’s amazing what this is doing for me and my family,” she says. “I can’t be more thankful.”
*The Flagstaff Family Food Center distributes emergency family food boxes Tuesday through Saturday from 9am – 1pm. The Food Bank on Huntington will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, November 29th. The Food Bank will be open for food box distribution on Saturday, November 30th from 9am – 1pm. The Kitchen on 2nd St. will be open for a hot meal every day (including holidays) from 4 – 5:30pm.
“I wouldn’t be able to eat if I didn’t have them bringing me food.” Carol, 83, a long-time Flagstaff resident and former teacher and bank teller, has been receiving home-bound meal deliveries from the Flagstaff Family Food Center since we took over the Commodity Senior Food Program from the Department of Economic Security in 2018. Carol owns a car but has too much trouble walking and moving around to be able to use it on her own. “I’d have to hire someone to go to the grocery store,” Carol says. “Even if I had money for the groceries, I probably couldn’t afford that.”
Each month, FFFC delivers a box of CSFP non-perishable food items and an FFFC family food box, consisting of mostly produce, as well as dairy, meat, and bread, to Carol’s home. The fresh produce is particularly valuable to Carol, who told us that fruits and vegetables are too expensive for her to purchase. As her budget got tighter, Carol wasn’t able to afford fresh produce and had to replace it with canned and processed non-perishable food. “My diet went downhill and I started to have trouble with my health. My doctor said, ‘Carol, you need to start eating more fruits and vegetables.’” Carol’s response: “Yeah, you wanna give me the money to buy them and I’ll eat them.”
Now Carol has consistent access to a variety of fruits and vegetables. Oranges, carrots, and grape tomatoes are her favorites. Her doctor has noticed a change in her diet, as well. At her last appointment, he told her that all of her vital signs were perfect. With regular home deliveries of nutritious food, Carol is healthier, happier, and able to keep up with her bills and expenses without worrying about putting food on the table. “As long as I have the Flagstaff Family Food Center, I won’t starve… I’ll have clothes. I won’t have to worry about anything.”
1 in 7 seniors in Arizona struggle with hunger. Seniors face a unique set of challenges, including depression and social isolation. Carol looks forward to her monthly food box deliveries for the social aspect, as much as anything. She counts on Cierra to be at her door on the first Thursday of every month, without fail. Carol always invites Cierra in for a snack, but she’s “so business-like” and has more deliveries to do. Knowing there will be someone bringing her food every month makes Carol feel like she lives in a community that cares about her. “We look out for each other,” Carol says about herself and her neighbors. “It’s how we survive.”