Reaching Out

Foundation Finds the Underserved and Lesser-known Nonprofits

By Loni Nannini

This year, Long Realty Cares Foundation marks a 20-year crusade of caring, a movement that has impacted 200-plus regional nonprofits. 

“This is a long list of local charities that represents countless individuals, families and lives in our community,” said Michelle Salvagio, foundation administrator for Long Realty Cares Foundation.

Through monthly grants and five-figure Annual Significant Gifts, the foundation has touched virtually every aspect of the nonprofit sector − social services, health, wellness and research, youth outreach, support for seniors and veterans, education, animal care and rescue, and arts education and outreach. 

Development of partnerships with nonprofits and communication with potential grant recipients has been key to the process, according to Salvagio.

“Our board of directors is committed to cultivating relationships with both new and established charities through our Long Realty Companies donor members to give our grant dollars the biggest impact,” said Salvagio. 

Partnerships that empower

Fittingly for an organization founded by a real estate brokerage, a longterm partner over the years is Habitat for Humanity Tucson, which is dedicated to facilitating home ownership for low-income families that earn 40% to 80% of Pima County’s median income. 

The foundation has been instrumental not only in helping to establish HabiStore Tucson, but in coordinating volunteer teams to assist with building homes and, most recently, in providing $20,000 in seed funding for the Connie Hillman Urban Construction Knowledge (CHUCK) Center slated to open in January 2023. 

“We use the term ‘game-changer’ in reference to Long Realty Cares Foundation and the support it has provided for Habitat for Humanity Tucson and the CHUCK Center,” said Charlie Buchanan, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Tucson. “We are excited about the bright opportunities that this facility will present to Habitat and the community. Currently, we close between 12 and 15 homes per year, and our goal is to increase that to 20 homes annually with the CHUCK Center.”

The 14,000-square-foot center seeks to solve complex issues surrounding the construction labor force. In collaboration with Pima Community College, the facility will offer a hands-on learning lab to facilitate construction of homes and modular housing components while providing training in the plumbing, carpentry, framing and electrician fields. Warehouse space at the center will also allow Habitat to capture cost savings by procuring construction materials in bulk while minimizing supply chain issues.

Buchanan emphasized that support from the foundation will help address the ongoing shortage of affordable homes in the current housing market, in which home prices have doubled and rent prices have increased by 60% over the last five years. 

“There is a dire need for skilled labor in construction and the trades across Arizona, and we will offer training in both construction and home repair,” Buchanan said. “The goal is to accelerate production and preservation of affordable housing within Southern Arizona. We are trying to provide more opportunities for home ownership, which is a permanent solution to the stabilization of families and neighborhoods.”

Support for the most vulnerable members of the community

Potential stabilization of vulnerable populations was also the impetus behind the foundation’s $65,000 Annual Significant Gift to Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF) in support of the Thornhill Lopez Center on 4th. 

“The Long Realty Cares Foundation has been an amazing, longtime supporter of SAAF. The foundation’s contribution to our capital campaign for the Thornhill Lopez Center played a huge part in providing an affirming and safe space for LGBTQ+ youth,” said Monique Vallery, director of development for SAAF.

Opened in 2017, the center provides an array of support and services for LGBTQ+ and allied youth ages 13 to 24, including a learning lab and computer center; performance space; a kitchen; laundry and showers; a bodega that supplies food, clothing and other basic needs, and common space for meetings and other activities. Vallery said it is a vital resource for marginalized community members, particularly since LGBTQ+ youth experience higher rates of homelessness, family estrangement, bullying and suicide.  

“The center allows young people to be recognized for their authentic selves,” Vallery said. “It offers a healthy and safe environment that can help with finishing school, assist with workforce development and build positive life skills so youth can continue forward and become contributing members of the community.”

Promoting healthy alliances and awareness for nonprofits

Development of healthy alliances with lesser-known nonprofit partners is also a priority for Long Realty Cares Foundation, according to foundation board President Thom Melendez.

“The foundation does more than give grants. It also provides education and information to members about amazing charities and services available in the community that they might not be aware of,” said Melendez. 

Sol Food Initiatives is one such beneficiary. Dedicated to the elimination of food insecurity through collaboration, the nonprofit community kitchen was established through Saguaro Christian Church three years ago. It fed up to 100 families weekly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to supply 40 meals for the homeless each Wednesday at Saguaro Center, 8302 E. Broadway.

Long Realty Cares Foundation has supported the efforts with monthly grants and emergency funding during COVID. 

“There is a real food desert on the east side of Tucson that many people don’t know about. These are lower income people that need help,” said Kerry Swindle, board chair for Sol Food Initiatives. “It is our goal to help them, and we are grateful that the foundation supports that vision. It has been a blessing for our program and so many others.”

The foundation has championed other distinctive nonprofits such as the Angel Heart Pajama Project, which has gifted 38,000 pairs of pajamas and books to children in crisis since 2013. The nonprofit serves kids who are homeless, abused, neglected, ill and low-income through 80 social service agencies predominantly in Tucson, Sierra Vista, Marana, Yuma and along the I-19 corridor. It also serves refugees and kids in shelters and the foster care system.

Both the foundation grants and the exposure the nonprofit has received as a result of Long Realty Companies’ recent pajama/book drive are invaluable, according to Patti Lopez, executive director of Angel Heart Pajama Project.

“The support is phenomenal. When we combine the foundation grants with the pajamas collected by Long Realty Companies, we will reach at least 1,500 kids,” said Lopez. “Many of these kids have never had a pair of pajamas. They just sleep in underwear or clothes. We understand the stress and difficulties that children face due to displacement and traumatic situations, and we are happy give them something special and to make a difference in their lives.

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