3 local nonprofits join forces to 'stomp' out poverty

3 local nonprofits join forces to 'stomp' out poverty

The Grape Stomp for a Cause on Sept. 29 is a friendly competition between GAP Ministries CEO Greg Ayers, left, Arizona Youth Partnership Executive Director Lori Malangone and Interfaith Community Services CEO Daniel Stoltzfus.

Three nonprofits are teaming up in a unique effort to crush poverty — literally and figuratively — while raising a toast to food lovers and philanthropic collaboration in Tucson.

Interfaith Community Services will join forces with GAP Ministries and the Arizona Youth Partnership to stage Eat, Drink and Be Giving at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at St. Philip’s Plaza, 4280 N. Campbell Ave.

A highlight of the fundraiser is the Grape Stomp for a Cause, in which the chief executive officers from the three organizations face off in bare feet to crush grapes and promote awareness about their nonprofits and their collective endeavor to break the cycle of poverty.

“This is an ‘all for one and one for all’ effort,” said Daniel Stoltzfus, chief executive officer of Interfaith Community Services.

“There are lots of needs in the Tucson community and we acknowledge that we can’t meet those needs alone. We need other organizations to help lift people out of poverty, and we hope this event is a model for others in our community. We all have an interdependent, interconnected relationship that is necessary for our work to be effective.”

Stoltzfus emphasized each of the organizations has key strengths in its goal to eradicate poverty: His organization is dedicated to stabilizing people in financial crisis and helping them attain a path to self-sufficiency and economic empowerment through emergency financial assistance, a food bank and job-training programs; AZYP targets youth-related issues such as substance abuse, homelessness, teen pregnancy and challenging family dynamics; and GAP Ministries has built a range of programs that provides life and job skills for adults and youths centered around its position as one of the largest foster-care providers in Southern Arizona.

“We have a holistic approach. We look at the whole person, from physical to spiritual to educational needs, and try to address all of those so that each aspect works in harmony with the other,” said GAP Ministries CEO Greg Ayers.

Ayers said that principle extends to the organization’s individual programs, which depend on one another to fulfill program mandates: For example, the GAP kitchen- and culinary-training programs take students and volunteers from the foster-care programs while families from the foster-care program receive food from the kitchen.

Ayers recognizes the interconnections with organizations such as AZYP, which has been working with young people in Southern Arizona to prevent the social and economic drivers of poverty since 1990.

Programs range from shelters and counseling for homeless and runaway youth to Healthy Relationship Education, substance-abuse and anti-social-behavior prevention and youth-leadership training. Practical knowledge and strategies for sustaining family life are taught through programs such as the Stronger Families Project, an eight-week curriculum to teach parents or caregivers and their children about love, limits and creating order in families.

“We are about keeping families together and helping youth grow up strong to break the cycles of poverty. Teen parents are more likely to live in poverty and have less educational opportunities, and strong families can help keep people out of poverty,” said Lori Malangone, executive director of AZYP.

Malangone views the upcoming fundraiser with its grape stomp as an ideal mechanism for bringing that mission to the public.

“The goal is to stomp out poverty, and we are three organizations working on different facets to accomplish that goal,” she said.

Malangone said that she is looking forward to the grape stomp, particularly since her session last year was cut short due to the fact that the grapes had been frozen prior to the event.

“I stomped for 20 seconds and my feet got too cold. Daniel and Greg continued to stomp and suffered the consequences. ... But the cool thing was that it gave us the chance to bring everyone together and share why we were participating in the event,” she said.

Stoltzfus, who spearheaded the grape stomp as a fun promotion in conjunction with the tastings of wine, beer and spirits and the samplings of food from local eateries, said he is eager for a rematch as well.

“Lori was smart. Greg and I were too caught up in the competitive furor to realize that we were in pain, and I think we both ended up with mild cases of frostbite, which is hard to get in Arizona in September,” he said.

Ultimately, Stoltzfus said that the evening showcases the fact that while nonprofits often compete for resources, they can also come together to provide a stronger network for those they serve.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net

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