Category Archives: Westside

Grand Opening of New Kids Cafe® Facility Expands Production of Meals For Hungry Children

It was a long-awaited, much-anticipated celebration of progress on Apr. 7 when the Kids Cafe program opened the doors to its new meal preparation facility at the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance Surprise facility.

The Kids Cafe program provides an important after school meal for at-risk kids who receive breakfast and lunch at school but in many cases don’t have a dinner meal waiting for them at home. One in four children in Arizona today are living in poverty, amounting to more than 260,000 children in Maricopa Country alone. Kids Cafe seeks to feed as many school-age children as possible.

“This expansion has been years in the making, and we’re very excited that the day is finally here,” said Laura Brill, Kids Cafe program manager. “The statistics of childhood hunger in Arizona are disturbing and unacceptable. This is the future of Arizona, and we feel like we need to invest now.”

What was a 200-square-foot area for volunteers to make sandwiches has expanded to an 8,500-square-foot facility that will allow the program to immediately expand from the current level of 1,700 meals per day to 3,000 by this summer and 4,000 by the end of 2011. The ultimate goal is to reach 8,000 to 10,000 meals by 2013, with the introduction of hot meals for the first time.

Currently, about 40 volunteers prepare the sandwiches, fruits and vegetables for the daily Kids Cafe meals. But more volunteers are now needed to keep up with expansion and to perform site-checks for future program sites. Anyone interested in volunteering should call Grace Rodil at (602) 343-5629 or Melissa Jensen at (602) 647-1820.


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Filed under Events, Food Banking, Volunteer, Westside

Kids Cafe in Surprise calls for Volunteers with Grand Opening Approaching on April 7th

Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 1:45 pm


Volunteers from the Sun Cities who devote time to the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Surprise don’t want Arizona children to go to bed hungry.

They see the faces of hunger while others just see statistics:

• One in four children in the state are living in poverty, amounting to more than 260,000 children in Maricopa Country alone.

• In Surprise, nearly 24 percent of households fall at or below the poverty level.

• Arizona ranks dead last in an America’s Health Ranking study with the greatest number of children in poverty.

The St. Mary’s Kids Cafe program is working toward changing those numbers by offering daily meals to impoverished children.

“Child hunger is getting worse,” said Laura Brill, the Kids Cafe manager, calling these statistics “disturbing and unacceptable.”

The program feeds about 1,700 school-age children at 32 different locations every day, but with a new building expansion, Brill hopes to expand that number to 3,000 over the summer and 4,000 by the end of the year.

The program will be moving next week to a renovated former storage space in the westside location of St. Mary’s, so volunteers and staff can pack, store and assemble the meals, which include sandwiches and fruit and vegetables, all in one place.

The volunteers appreciate the commitment to the westside location, said Jan Wells, who helps coordinate the volunteers.

“Everybody is very excited,” she said.

Wells hopes to expand the menu offered. Right now, volunteers make up ham sandwiches, beef and ranch wraps or other varieties of sandwiches.

“Our goal is to provide that nutritional meal,” she said.

Brill said children living in poverty don’t eat well because it’s usually the highly processed foods lacking in significant nutritional value that are the cheapest to buy and that leads not only to poorer general health, but fatigue, hospitalizations, behavioral difficulties and impaired performance in school.

Brill said the goal of the program, which exists on a combination of donations and government funding, is to give children consistent daily nutrition, and it’s about giving them both quantity and quality food.

“This is the future of Arizona, and we feel like we need to invest now,” Brill said.

It’s important to sustain that nutrition during the summer, and more difficult to do because the children aren’t in school, she said.

“We want to kind of keep them steady,” Brill said. “We want the kids to be ready for when school starts back up.”

The goal is to expand the Kids Cafe program to make 8,000 meals a day, but that’s a few years down the road, she said.

And for both the current and future expansion, the food bank needs new volunteers; both Brill and Wells emphasized their appreciation for the volunteers and the support of the Sun Cities and Surprise communities.

But it takes a lot of work, Brill said, stressing the need for volunteers looking for a more in-depth project who can adopt a Kids Cafe site to set up and track the program.

“We want to make sure we’re very mindful in our planning,” Brill said, explaining she doesn’t want to have to say to the children at the sites: “Sorry, we messed up, we’re not going to feed you anymore.”

If the program doesn’t get enough volunteers to visit sites, it can’t have as many locations and won’t be able to feed as many kids, Brill said.

The Kids Cafe program is also looking for potential new locations for the meal sites, which can be any place children have access to, from a church, playground or pool, or an apartment complex.

Volunteers interested in doing site visits can call Grace Rodil at 602-343-5629 or email her at

For volunteers looking to help prepare meals or do other work for St. Mary’s Westside location, call Jan Wells at 602-343-5637 or reach her by email at

Different sites looking to participate can call Melissa Jensen at 602-647-1820

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Filed under donations, Events, Food Banking, Volunteer, Westside


Enjoy a beautiful Saturday night under the stars as the Surprise Community and Recreation Services presents “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” on the this Saturday, April l 17 at the Surprise Recreation Campus – Surprise Stadium (15850 N. Bullard Avenue).

Bring your blankets and pillows and stretch out on lush Surprise Stadium grass as the movie is displayed on the giant Surprise Stadium Video Board. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the movie starts at 7. Admission is free with a canned food donation to benefit St. Mary’s Food Bank in Surprise.

The Surprise Stadium food and beverage policy is in effect. Ice chests and lawn chairs are not permitted. Concessions will be available for purchase. For more information, contact Surprise Community and Recreation Services at 623-222-2000 or visit

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It’s sooooo cute. It’s hilarious. And it’s all for a great cause – filling the shelves at St. Mary,s Food Bank. The 34th Annual Dolly Sanchez Memorial Easter Egg Hunts will take place Saturday, April 3 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Peoria Sports Complex (16101 N. 83rd Avenue). Parking and admission are free with a non-perishable food donation to St. Mary’s Westside Facility.

Join the Easter Bunny as he hosts egg hunts for 1-year-olds (8:20 a.m.); 2-year-olds (8:45 a.m.); 3-year-olds (9:10 a.m.); 4-year-olds (9:30 a.m.) 5-year-olds (9:50 a.m.); 6-year-olds (10:10 a.m.); 7- and 8-year-olds (10:25 a.m.) and 9- and 10-year-olds (10:40 a.m.). Also enjoy puppet shows, carnival games, craft creation, inflatables and other entertainment. For more information, visit

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Filed under Events, Food Drives, Westside


More than 20 major league baseball players past and present will participate in the annual “Spirit of the Game” Cactus League kickoff event, scheduled for Feb. 20th from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Surprise Stadium – the spring home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers.

Former pitcher and inspirational speaker Dave Dravecky will headline the event, sponsored by Compassionate Surprise. The night is designed to give fans a chance to see their favorite players, ask for autographs and have kids take part in clinics and interactive games.

Players scheduled to appear include Eric Chavez (Oakland A’s); Russ Ortiz and Adam Goodwin (Los Angeles Dodgers); Mike Sweeney, Rob Johnson and Garrett Olson (Seattle Mariners); Blaine Boyer (Arizona Diamondbacks); Micha Owings and Bill Bray (Cincinnati Reds); Mat Laporta (Cleveland Indians); Chase Headley and Nick Hundley (San Diego Padres); Jeremy Affeldt (San Francisco Giants) and former big league stars like Kevin Young, Damion Easley and Tim Salmon.

Admission to “Spirit of the Game” is free with a non-perishable food donation to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance/Westside. Those who bring food will be registered to win a door prize. Raffle tickets will also be sold ($5 apiece, six for $20) to benefit St. Mary’s and Interfaith Community Care. Prize include Suns and Diamondbacks tickets as well as a golf package at the Wigwam Resort.

For more information, call (602) 274-1988.

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The Wisconsin Badger Club of Arizona

The Wisconsin Badger Club of Arizona donated checks totaling $500 each to The Sun Cities Salvation Army Corporation and the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance Westside location on Mar. 5. Additional donations were also made to the Sun City Sunshine Club, Sun City West Helping Hands and the Sun City and Sun City West Visitors Centers. Over the last decade, Badger Club donations to Northwest Valley charitable agency have now exceeded $12,000. For more information on memberships and meetings, call Pat Maier at (623) 583-2218.

Above, Badger Club Membership Chairperson Pat Maier (left) and club president Dick Johnson (right) present checks to Peter Hernandez (second left) and Miles Lugo from St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.

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Filed under General, Local Business, Westside

St. Mary’s volunteer, 96, takes bite out of hunger

September 27, 2009 5:04 PM
Erin Turner
Daily News-Sun

Art Molay wakes up every day the same as he always has.

On Tuesday and Thursday he prepares for the day, gets in his car and heads over to the St. Mary’s Food Bank in Surprise, where he volunteers for three hour shifts, packing food boxes for the hungry and making meals for underfed children.

The Sun Citian has repeated the same routine for the last five years and joins hundreds of other volunteers whose dedication ensures the food bank meets the demand.

What makes Molay extraordinary, however, is the birthday he celebrated last Tuesday — number 96.

Molay is the oldest volunteer at St. Mary’s, and as it turns out, one of its most dependable.

Molay is part of a group of about 15 seniors from Temple Beth Shalom in Sun City, who volunteer each week at the food bank. Several of the members are in their 90s.

“They’re incredible. Not only are they mentors to the younger folks who come and volunteer with us they carry a living heritage with them,” said Elizabeth Wunsch, volunteer services manager. “You know they’re going to be here. You can count on them. They have an incredible work ethic. They teach by what they do. We can’t keep up with them.”

“Everything they do with a great amount of pride and a great amount of love,” she added.

For Molay, volunteering at the food bank allows him to combine his desire to help the less fortunate and children, who he “just loves,” with ample free time in need of filling.

“When (my wife) passed away I was cornered. I had to have something to do. One of the members of our temple suggested that I try this, and I’m forever grateful to her for doing so because they’re wonderful people, they make me feel at home and it fills in my day for me,” he said. “I feel sorry for some of the people who come here, I really do. I feel I’m very fortunate in that respect. I like keeping busy and being able to help as much as possible. I enjoy it.”

Molay said his “donation of time” to the food bank is a simple way to give back to the community.

“You have to have some innovation of some sort, some stimulus to (volunteer),” he said. “The only compensation you get is knowing that you’re helping people. As long as I can drive, I’m all right. That has always been my worry — that I’m going to become too feeble to drive and then I’m stuck. But so far I’m able to keep up with it physically and mentally (and) I’m happy to help.”

Without the dedication and time from volunteers like Molay and his friends, the food bank wouldn’t be operational, especially when the need has grown so much in light of the economy, food bank officials said.

“Our hours our volunteers provide us give us over 150 full-time staff positions. There is no way in the world we could function without them,” Wunsch said. “And this year our numbers have gone up 120 percent … we got slammed and the (volunteers) kept up. Whatever you give them to do, they want more. They actually are competitive, too.”

And unlike other St. Mary’s locations around the Valley, the west side facility is largely dependent on senior volunteers like Molay.

“What’s great about the volunteer base we have here is their consistency. We know every Tuesday we can count on this group,” said Irma Leyendecker, director of volunteer services. “Whereas some of our other facilities (we’re unsure) what we’ll have each day, here we know we can count on these people. It’s a close-knit family.”

For Molay, his second career as a volunteer is just getting started. He said he feels, “as good as ever” and plans to continue “as long as he’s physically able.”

“I’m lucky to be able to keep active,” he said. “That, I’m thankful for. I don’t have any secret … except I chose the right parents. Good genes. There’s no secret to it — just luck.”

For information about volunteer services or donations, visit or call 602-242-FOOD.

Erin Turner may be reached at 623-876-2522 or


Filed under Volunteer, Westside