Acting on Faith

By Stephanie Collins

Rev. Barbara Anderson had a vision nearly 30 years ago of creating an organization that would foster cooperation among different faiths and numerous congregations in Tucson.

That vision resulted in Interfaith Community Services, a nonprofit organization that brings together 73 faith communities and hundreds of volunteers and community partners to provide critically needed services to seniors, people with disabilities and families in financial crisis.

Executive Director Bonnie Kampa said the interfaith aspect is still very important today. “All faiths have an element of giving back,” Kampa said, adding that ICS has a mission of “filling gaps in basic services’’ for Pima County residents in need.

ICS works closely with the Tucson business community to accomplish these goals.

Tucson Electric Power is a major corporate partner providing support for ICS programs, services and events.

Partners Northwest Medical Center and Oro Valley Hospital help drive the agency’s Mobile Meals program, providing nutrition to frail and low-income seniors, as well as disabled and convalescing adults who cannot cook for themselves. Nutrition specialists from the hospitals help provide meals that are nutritious and customized for specific needs.

University of Arizona Medical Center, another corporate partner, refers recently discharged patients to ICS for Mobile Meals. These patients often become recipients of other ICS services, including the ICS Food Bank located at its main office on Ina Road.

Every day, as many as 200 hungry neighbors turn to the ICS Food Bank for help. The organization opened its new 2,700-square-foot facility in 2011, and distributes about 2,000 emergency food boxes each month.

The ICS Food Bank prevents children and elderly from going hungry. According to the 2011 U.S. Census, 25.3 percent of Tucsonans – many of them families with children – live at or below the federal poverty level.

Other resources include the Planned Giving Advisory Council Member Directory and Guide to Legacy Giving. The pamphlet includes an index of experts in estate planning, accounting and wealth management fields.

“Partnerships are central to our mission at ICS,” Kampa said. “From providing financial help to sponsoring an event or hosting a food and diaper drive, partners help us conserve costs and maximize our services in so many ways.”

The agency created a community advisory board made up of executives and community leaders with the purpose of expanding the reach of ICS and keeping in touch with the
community’s needs.

“We operate as a true live business,” said Board President Steve Pollyea. “Business leaders are woven through the whole structure.”

He believes the board’s focus on strategic planning is a key to success and “gives us the discipline to achieve our goals.”

Every year, about 25,000 people – including 600 seniors – are helped by ICS. With 88 cents of every dollar donated going to services, ICS remains financially transparent, Pollyea said.

He believes that not only does ICS benefit from the contributions of Tucson business leaders, but local businesses benefit from building a stronger community through ICS.

Charity Navigator has given ICS its top rating of 4 stars for three years running. The organization rates charities and non-profits on financial performance, accountability and transparency.

Development Director Deborah Carr said that the agency’s 638 volunteers “set a tone of cooperation and love to everyone who comes through the doors.”

Pollyea and other board members believe strongly in the mission, and are also volunteers. Volunteer Sandy Kohlmann, a retired dental hygienist instructor works in the ICS Resource Center, coaching people on resume writing and job seeking.

“I appreciate ICS’s mission to help people who want to help themselves,” Kohlmann said.

As she saw the economy worsen, Kohlmann became aware of the high level of unemployment and the need for assistance. She helps Tucsonans “identify a change of career, a change of direction,” and sees her most important role as one of offering encouragement.

“There are so many opportunities at ICS for all kinds of skills, and there is something for everyone to do as a volunteer,” she said.

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