The local nonprofits nominated in this year’s Créme De La Copa are F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank, Dance for Tatas and Pet Social Worker. These organizations were nominated for their enthusiastic support of the community and their hard work serving the public. Minor edits have been made to these interviews for clarity.
Wendy Webb founded F.O.R. Maricopa 15 years ago along with a small team of people — Rusty Akers and Nancy Smith. Webb expressed her gratitude for being nominated again this year and shared the story of her nonprofit.
Q: Tell me what went into founding F.O.R. Maricopa.
A: Rusty Akers and Nancy Smith and I — we started taking food to people's homes, then met in the grocery parking lot, and then finally we got space in a double-wide trailer out in Seven Ranches.
We were there for a few years. We then needed to move to the old jail from the sheriff's department.
With the new overpass that came in and landed on where we were, we spent one to two years looking for a space and finally got what used to be the red barn. It took a while to renovate to get it up to code for the health department and the city of Maricopa. We have been grateful for this space.
Q: What gives you the most satisfaction in your line of work?
A: Helping others. You don't always know what our help means to those we serve, but every so often someone shares what it means to them when we’re able to help them. Sometimes, they come back after they are back on their feet and they share what it meant to them. There are many times when they are very excited to give back and help others.
Q: What are some of the challenges F.O.R. Maricopa has faced?
A: Like any food bank, finding volunteers and funding [is] always a challenge. We went one step further and when COVID started, we stepped forward to help with Copa Cares. Staying from the beginning of COVID, wearing mask and gloves 'til about four-six months ago, [and] helping those in need — as well as those who were homebound and those at highest risk.
We were so blessed to have people show up to help us keep our doors open during this very challenging time. Teachers, people who worked from home, churches and businesses reached out to help us too. We wrote a lot of grants to keep food on our shelves. We searched any place we could think of to find PPE and food when shelves were so empty everywhere.
Q: Looking ahead into 2023, what are some of your goals?
A: We are getting ready to start the completion of our site plan; this will include pavement, parking spaces, lighting, landscaping, a wall around the lot and drainage plans. This will be a huge project for us and we’re looking forward to having a paved lot for the future.
We have a five-year capital plan where we’ll be improving the look of our building, buying new equipment like an air conditioner that is overdue to be replaced, upgrading our database and upgrading our office spaces that we lease in the front of the building.
Q: How can people get involved?
A: There are many ways to help: Food donations can be dropped at our drop sites around town that are listed on our website. Save egg cartons, plastic grocery bags or toiletries from hotels when traveling. Use the state tax credit for us, volunteer at events or weekly at the food bank. Help write grants, or help with some of our other programs.
We have a very new bike program that we are very excited about. We are taking new and gently used bikes, fixing them if needed and getting them out to kids in need within our community. We need all the bikes we can get to help our kids get to school or to work — or for adults who need transportation — we will hopefully be able to meet that need also. There’s a lot of ways to get involved.
Dance for Tatas
Also up for nomination this year is Dance for Tatas, a first for the nonprofit that was founded in 2017. Founders Jeannie Day and Donna Aguilar expressed their gratitude for being chosen as a nominee, and shared how breast cancer has impacted their lives.
A: Why did you decide to found Dance for Tatas?
A: Donna and I both lost people to breast cancer: my mom and Donna’s best friend. We were both Zumba instructors at the time and wanted to do something for breast cancer awareness. We had a zumbathon and raised about $1,000. We had very good feedback and decided to make an annual event and decided to get our 501(c)(3).
Q: How does it feel to be nominated?
A: We feel very honored to have made a name for ourselves in Maricopa. We have helped local women and survivors with mammograms and items they need that aren’t covered by insurance.
We’re so blessed to be able to stay local — to get the support needed from Maricopa to grow.
Q: What are some of the difficulties you’ve faced since opening?
A: COVID was tough. We were not able to have in-person events and therefore fundraising suffered.
Q: What is Dance for Tatas best known for?
A: We are known for our fitness events. This year one of our goals was to have a women’s expo. It was a huge success — we had 30 vendors, the MOM (Mobile On-site Mammography) mammogram truck did 30 mammograms and 17 of those we sponsored and paid for because these women didn’t have insurance. We want to try and do this a couple times a year.
Q: How does Dance for Tatas benefit the community?
A: The most important thing we can do is educate women to be their own advocate. To know their bodies and if something feels off, advocate for themselves until a health care professional listens. We would love to make sure everyone who needs a mammogram gets one.
Q: Any last thoughts?
A: We want to thank Maricopa for nominating us.
Pet Social Worker
The final nominee in the nonprofit category is Pet Social Worker, a nearly 20-year-old animal welfare organization founded by Kimberly Diedrich. She and her predecessor, who served as director, Julie Rae Applegath, work hard in the community to support pets in need.
Q: Tell me the story of how you founded your nonprofit?
A: Kimberly saw a need in the community to reunite lost pets with their owners and find loving homes for homeless pets in Maricopa
Q: What is your favorite part about running your rescue?
A: My favorite part is saving the lives of pets and improving the lives of their adoptive families.
Q: What are some of the past challenges you’ve faced?
A: A challenge we’ve faced is definitely [finding] funding for veterinary treatment. This is needed for every animal we rescue.
Q: What are some of your goals this coming year?
A: Our goal is to make the transition from our first director to our next director as smooth as possible, [and] to increase funds available to get more animals.
Q: What do you think is important about your rescue?
A: Helping the community and saving lives.
Q: What does it mean to you to be nominated by Maricopans?
A: It’s always nice to be recognized for hard work and community involvement. The “it takes a village” (saying) is incredibly true in animal rescue efforts. Without the help of the foster families and volunteers, we would not be successful in our efforts.