We are thankful for these five Tucson charities
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We are thankful for these five Tucson charities

Five Tucson-based charities have earned top ranking from a national group that evaluates nonprofits’ finances, accountability and transparency.

Charity Navigator awarded four stars to Youth on Their Own, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson, Interfaith Community Services, Primavera Foundation and Reid Park Zoological Society.

We believe all five deserve recognition and our thanks for making Tucson a better place.

To be considered for ranking, a nonprofit must have filed 990 tax forms for seven years and have total revenue of more than $1 million. Only about 30 percent of eligible charities nationwide achieve four-star status.

Youth on their own

The group assists about 1,500 homeless kids in the metro area. The youth, in grades 6 through 12, enroll through their schools. They must maintain a “C” average in every class and have good attendance.

In return, they are eligible for a stipend of up to $140 a month and can obtain basic hygiene, food and clothing items and school supplies from Youth On Their Own.

Teresa Liverzani-Baker, executive director of Youth On Their Own, says the biggest challenge for the organization is that Tucsonans don’t realize the scope of the need here.

About 6,000 area children were homeless in 2013, the most recent census estimate available.

Homeless youth wants to blend in, but they are all around us, even in parts of town considered wealthy, Liverzani-Baker says. A child can become homeless because of poverty as well as because of abuse, abandonment or violence.

Youth on Their Own has achieved a four-star rating both times it has been eligible.

Boys & Girls Clubs

About 5,000 kids ages seven through 17 visit the six Boys & Girls Clubs clubhouses for a range of activities — arts, computers, character and leadership development, homework help and more.

A big need right now is for a sponsor for the basketball league, which operates in the fall and spring. The league is one of the main attractions for teen boys, who probably wouldn’t walk in seeking help with homework, says Elizabeth Bollinger, fund development manager for the club.

Once they come to play hoops, they often get involved with other programs, she says. The club aims to raise $50,000 for the basketball league.

This is the fourth straight year the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson has been awarded four stars.

The Zoological Society

The society supports and advocates for the Reid Park Zoo, which is city-owned and -operated. That support includes raising money for the zoo through events such as the popular Zoo Lights every December.

The society has earned a four-star rating two of the last three years.

Interfaith Community Services

The social services organization works to help people in financial crisis regain self-sufficiency. It might make a rent payment to keep someone from becoming homeless or pay a utility bill to stop service from being cut. ICS has bought uniforms and steel-toed boots for people who want to work but cannot afford the equipment.

The organization also helps people set goals and establish household budgets. It assists with résumé writing and teaches interviewing skills.

The small staff — 21 full-time equivalents —is supported by an army of volunteers. Last year, 757 volunteers gave 54,978 hours, says Deborah Carr, philanthropy and public relations director.

Still, the need outpaces ICS’s ability to help. On a busy day, it receives up to 300 calls, Carr says.

Interfaith Community Service has six straight four-star ratings.

Primavera Foundation

Primavera also helps in emergencies — it operates a shelter for men and another for families — but its services extend all the way to helping people become homeowners.

Primavera’s address is the postal “home” address for many people in need. As JoAnn Salazar, chief philanthropy officer, points out, addresses are important for all sorts of purposes, including job applications.

In one year, the number of people using that service has increased from 2,000 to 3,000, she says, creating a daily job for volunteers who sort the mail.

The group also teaches workforce skills and readiness and operates it own temporary-employment agency, Primavera Works.

The mantra at Primavera, Salazar says, is to help people be safe and achieve stable and sustainable lives.

Primavera has earned four stars three of the past five years.

The Star congratulates these five local charities for their responsible financial practices and transparency.

In this season of thanks and giving, we encourage readers to consult charitynavigator.org to make sure they support deserving groups.

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