Markers of death and dying are all around: the roadside flowers and crosses memorializing a loved one, the white-painted bikes at the scene of a bike fatality, or the uniquely Tucson All Souls Procession.
These traditional and modern rituals are worth documenting and sharing, says Maribel Alvarez, professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and program director of Tucson Meet Yourself, the annual folklife festival.
Alvarez and her colleagues were awarded $13,500 to document rituals surrounding death and dying among the cultures living in Tucson. The group is one of 26 recipients of more than $355,000 in total grant funding from the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona.
Most of the foundation’s grant funding — $220,000 — went to local and regional projects related to poverty and improving the lives of young people, and $135,700 focused on projects related to hospice and end-of-life issues.
Alvarez says the grant will be used to organize public events that will collect and record rituals from the diverse cultures living here, such as Mexican-Hispanic, Jewish, Middle Eastern and African communities. Those story-collection efforts will hopefully culminate in an exhibit at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival in 2015, she said.
Camp Wildcat, a nonprofit student-run club at UA, also received $3,500 to support its annual trip to the Grand Canyon for low-income Tucson youth.
During the four-day excursion, the college students encourage youth to strive for success and seriously consider college.
Usually, “it’s either teachers or parents telling them to do their homework.
Having someone a little closer to their age explaining the importance can be really powerful,” said Hannah Crawford, 21, a club member and UA senior majoring in sociology.
The demand for grant funding to tackle poverty issues is staggering, said Barbara Brown, vice president for program services and community initiatives at the Community Foundation. After announcing the poverty grant funding and requesting letters of interest last fall, the Community Foundation got 72 letters, requesting $1.8 million.
The foundation chose 17 nonprofits for that grant round. “This demonstrates the need,” she said. For the end-of-life grants, nine nonprofits were awarded between $2,000 and $25,000 each.
Before her death, Shaaron Kent devoted a portion of her assets to establish the grant fund focused on end-of-life. She wanted to help ease the transition from life to death and encourage open discussion about end-of-life decisions, Brown said.
Among the other grant winners:
- With a $2,100 grant, Renewal Centers Counseling Services is adding grief support groups focused on giving men a safe space to share their emotions.
- Community Repair Projects of Arizona got $9,500 for repairing substandard housing in which a child resides.
- The Assistance League of Tucson got $13,375 to provide clothes to low-income elementary school children.
- The Tucson Breakfast Lions Foundation received $17,160 to provide free vision screenings to kids in kindergarten through third grade in Marana, and free glasses to kids who need them.
- Services, through its Pio Decimo Center, will devote its $12,800 to teaching financial literacy to adults. “They made the case that by teaching parents, children benefit,” Brown said.