Homeless for years, literally living in an orchard, “Ron” tried a variety of jobs that were mostly temporary. He was frequently laid off, adding to the difficulty of trying to restore some element of normalcy to his life.
At one point, Ron’s identification documents and food stamps were stolen and used by someone else until they expired.
Ron joined Tempe Community Action Agency’s I-HELP program a year ago and shortly after began volunteering at the organization’s Food Pantry.
“I wanted to do something and give back to the people that were helping me,” said Ron.
Now, Ron and others served by I-HELP will be feted at the organization’s annual fund-raiser, First Crush, on Friday, Oct. 21 at AZ Heritage Center at Papago Park.
This evening under the stars features a combination of wine and beer from Four Peaks Brewing Company, along with foods from M Culinary Concepts, Casino Arizona, Snooze and Whole Foods. Live entertainment, a raffle and a silent auction are also planned.
While the event typically is a way for Tempe dignitaries, residents and corporate supporters to mix and mingle, TCAA Director Deborah Arteaga says it’s an opportunity to raise vital funds for programs that have a positive impact on the most vulnerable members of the community.
One such program that will benefit from this year’s gala is the Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program, which provides Tempe’s only homeless lodging service.
I-HELP not only provides a nightly meal and shelter 365 days a year, it also offers case management services that link homeless participants with the training and resources they need to regain their financial independence.
Ron is a good example of I-HELP’s impact, notes Arteaga. On Monday through Friday, his days at the center, Ron volunteers in the pantry from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or until all of the work for the day is completed.
Through the support and encouragement that he received from TCAA and I-HELP, Ron is now employed full-time at Aramark and is saving to afford permanent housing. His current job, however, is not a permanent position, so he’s still at risk financially and is working with his TCAA case manager to find stable, permanent employment.
According to the case worker, Ron’s performance at the pantry demonstrates his work ethic and has helped strengthen his employment qualifications. TCAA also helped Ron secure health insurance benefits.
Notes Arteaga: The word “homeless” can often seem impersonal; a label applied to people of all ages and backgrounds. But each person enrolled in I-HELP is an individual with a unique set of circumstances who needs help regaining his/her footing in society. To help make a difference in the life of someone like Ron, tickets to First Crush are on sale now at early-bird prices of $100 per person. Information and tickets: tempeaction.org/first-crush-tickets-2016/.