El Rio Vecinos

By Romi Carrell Wittman –

Big Bash Benefits Kids
El Rio Vecinos’ Black Tie Block Party Returns

El Rio Vecinos is at it again. This year the group is planning an even bigger bash than the hugely successful inaugural Black Tie Block Party held last fall.

Maira Rodriguez, a student services advanced specialist with Pima Community College, is co-chair of this year’s event She said the Vecinos, which means neighbors in Spanish, are aiming high. “Last year, we sold out a week before the event,” she said. “This year’s event is larger and we have 750 tickets, with a goal of raising $75,000 for El Rio’s Pediatric Dental Program.”

The second annual Black Tie Block Partyy will be held Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. at the historic Scottish Rite Cathedral. Like last year, the event is Tucson formal – that is jeans, bow ties, cocktail dresses, flip flops and everything in between.

Rodriguez said her love of “Downton Abbey” helped shape the vision. “It will be elegant, kind of like the parish fair on the show,” she said. “We’ll have old-timey games like a ring toss and music and performers.” She hopes people will dress in styles from the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s.

Like last year, artists will be on-site creating original works of art to be auctioned later in the evening.

Guests will also have a chance to win a 2015 Ford Mustang, 50th Anniversary Edition, sponsored by The Jim Click Automotive Team. General admission gets you in the door at 7 p.m., but VIP ticket holders can arrive at 6 p.m. and receive valet parking, extra drink tickets and other benefits.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Teresa Bravo, coordinator of economic development and international projects for Pima County and event co-chair. “My advice to people is to buy your tickets early and wear comfortable shoes!”

Food and beverage sponsors include El Charro Café, Elliott’s on Congress, Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar, Johnny Gibson’s Downtown Market, On a Roll Sushi•Bar•Restaurant, Panera Bread, Sir Veza’s Taco Garage and Tavolino Ristorante Italiano. All proceeds go to El Rio’s Pediatric Dental Program. Funds will be used to provide both preventive and emergency dental care for children.

“One day I saw a woman and her 10-year-old daughter,” said Brenda Goldsmith, executive director of El Rio Health Center Foundation. “The little girl had what looked like two abscessed teeth and was in a lot of pain, but they couldn’t afford treatment.” Goldsmith helped them through El Rio’s emergency fund. El Rio’s preventive program aims to stop problems before they happen.

Rodriguez and Bravo have personal ties to El Rio. Rodriguez was a patient after college and later worked at El Rio. Bravo also received treatment at El Rio while she was an undergraduate student. Both are passionate about El Rio and the Vecinos. Bravo was a founding member and Rodriguez has been a member since 2013.

Vecinos members – young professionals ages 25 to 39 – share support El Rio and its mission of serving the community’s healthcare needs, regardless of ability to pay.

The primary focus is to fundraise and support El Rio Community Health Center. Vecinos are required to attend meetings and to actively participate. They use a point system to track participation. They are passionate and hard working, Goldsmith said.

As an executive director, she’s worked with and served on many different boards. “I’ve never seen the connection that I see with this group. I see lifelong friendships being formed.”

Founded 45 years ago, the health center serves more than 83,000 people annually, including 33,000 children. El Rio Vecinos was the brainchild of El Rio Foundation Board Member Dan Chambers, who recognized the importance of cultivating the next generation of philanthropic community leaders. Two Vecinos have already “graduated” to the board of the El Rio Foundation. Currently there are 39 active Vecinos.

“The idea for the Vecinos was a concept, a vision,” Bravo said. “And now it’s taken hold. It has its own life and it’s getting really fun.”

Black Tie Block Party Benefits El Rio Children’s Dental Program

Scottish Rite Cathedral, 160 S. Scott Ave.
Saturday, Sept. 12, 7p.m.
$50 general admission
$75 VIP admission
Buy tickets at www.elrio.org or call 520-205-4947
Sponsorships – Call Jill Rodriguez at 520 870-7148

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