Friday, January 15, 2010

A VISTA update from Rimrock

In early December following the Thanksgiving season, VISTA member Annika Head returned to work developing youth activities and community resources at Rimrock’s isolated Beaver Creek School. This is when she received the unfortunate and ill-timed news. Annika’s supervisor informed her that the Central Arizona Food Bank had to immediately discontinue all donation operations to Rimrock’s local food distribution center for December, predominately due to an inopportune logistical issue.

Karin Ward of Beaver Creek School, the Verde Food Council, and Annika immediately began collaborative efforts to ensure a delivery from somewhere. They directly contacted the St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix and were recipients of good news: St. Mary’s was eager to help. Rimrock’s Beaver Creek Food Bank typically averages 150 people per month, mostly due to an unreliable and limited food distributor and lackluster community outreach efforts. St. Mary’s said they would be in the area next Saturday and could provide food for 700 people.

Annika and Karin now recognized their situation at the Rimrock Foodbank as a crisis of opportunity. They attended all community meetings with the announcement, flyers were sent home with every child at Beaver Creek School, and the news was circulated in the community’s e-newsletter. In the few days before the shipment was to arrive, Annika also spent time calling and contacting everyone that had ever expressed a need for food donations.

When the morning finally came, an hour before opening a line formed out the door, and by the end of the day nearly 650 people received food that Saturday, quadrupling the average amount of food recipients. With the remaining perishable items, Annika and Karin were also able to donate additional food for the Kiwanis Christmas Food Box Drive, providing food for families in need during the holidays.

What could have been a catastrophe turned out to be a gift in disguise. Relationships have since been repaired with the Central Arizona Food Bank, and Rimrock Food Bank is operating again normally. The amount of people in attendance for Rimrock’s January distribution stayed nearly as high, with the increased numbers believed to be due to the immediate and extensive outreach efforts of December. Through St. Mary’s large delivery in December, the unfortunate needs of Rimrock were seen, but larger deliveries can now be ensured.

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