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Hope International truck stolen; Coolidge food pantry still going strong
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COOLIDGE — Hope International Food Pantry keeps on trucking, even without its truck.

On June 22, Pastor Anthony Warren and his wife, Audrey, reported their truck, a 2004 GMC Sierra, missing from their residence in Heartland Ranch. The vehicle remains missing. Nevertheless, thanks to community support, the food pantry was able to continue its bimonthly food drives unabated.

“That truck might be in Mexico,” Pastor Warren said. “It’s just such a heartbreaking thing to come out and see the truck is gone. I utilize that truck to pick up food, people, all kinds of things. Luckily, the community has been calling us, volunteering, assisting us with help.”

Warren said for last Thursday’s food drive, Florence Baptist Food Pantry volunteered its truck to help bring food over, so Hope wasn't hindered by the loss. Warren also mentioned Joseph Kessler of Coolidge Cleaners had offered his truck for the time being.

The summer has seen some changes at the food bank, as a new round of volunteers come out to assist and the needs of the community change.

Volunteer Sue Kendall said there are a lot of new volunteers, but the need for food donations isn’t quite as drastic as during the height of the pandemic, when the line for the food drive went all the way to Arizona Boulevard. Kendall said there aren't as many people calling midweek to try and receive emergency boxes.

“It’s been busy and warm this summer but it’s been a lot of fun,” Kendall said of volunteering at the pantry. “We’ve had people come from Florence, so we’re getting our name out there, letting people know that we’re here.”

On Facebook last week, Audrey Warren reached out to people to thank them for the support, even though the truck was never found.

“Thank you to all of our ‘friends’ or family who genuinely reached out to us about our truck being stolen,” she said. “It wasn’t the best-looking truck, but we needed it. Whether you could do anything about it or not, it means a lot to know that people actually care. In times like these, you really find out a lot about the people in your camp.”

Pastor Warren said they are considering hosting a fundraiser event or crowdfunding to raise money for another truck.

The food bank’s summer hours are 7 to 9 a.m. every first and third Thursday of the month. Senior boxes only will be given out during that same time period on Thursday of this week.

Residents can contact the food pantry about donations at hopeinternationalfoodpantry@gmail.com.

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Coolidge celebrates July Fourth; fireworks location adjusted for safety
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COOLIDGE — After a two-year wait, hundreds of local residents gathered at Kenilworth Sports Complex to watch a dazzling fireworks show Sunday night to celebrate the Fourth of July. In addition to those gathered on the lawn, even more locals sat on top of cars lined up along West Coolidge Avenue to witness the display.

The fireworks show was adjusted slightly from past years due to safety measures related to mitigating the threat of fires, a major concern during a summer that has seen devastating wildfires throughout Arizona. The display was located on the south end of the park, which limited parking but provided great views from the front fields.

Parks and Recreation Director Ricky LaPaglia was happy that both the fireworks show and the public pool hours were well attended and went off without a hitch.

“It’s a holiday we enjoy, even though we have to work,” LaPaglia said. “It’s a fun event. I love the fireworks and the music; this is 18 years in a row for me.”

The Parks and Recreation team provided snacks, including watermelon slices, while the Hermanos Gueros food truck provided tacos and other Mexican cuisine. New to the event, several inflatable sports games were set up along the south end of the field.

LaPaglia, who grew up in Coolidge, said that originally the city just hosted a fireworks event, but that over time the evening programming evolved to include more things like games and vendors.

The Parks and Recreation staff expressed appreciation for the fact they were able to host the event after having to cancel last year’s fireworks show due to COVID-19.

“It’s great just to see the kids be able to have fun again and not be stuck inside,” said volunteer Dylan Bechtel, one of several manning the watermelon station. “Just being able to be around each other without masks is pretty cool.”

Although the staff wasn’t sure if the gathering was quite as large as prepandemic celebrations, at least one newer Coolidge family, Pastor Josh Richmond and his wife, Heather, were very impressed with the communal festivities.

“The Fourth of July to me is about the freedom we have here in America,” Heather Richmond said. “That we can come out and enjoy festivities such as this and not have to worry about what’s happening around us, that’s a really nice thing.”

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Construction begins to replace leaking pipe on Northern Avenue
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COOLIDGE — Things are looking different in and around Coolidge High School.

Recently, residents celebrated the opening of the new Aquatic Center along Northern Avenue. Last week, the other, less heralded piece of the bond issue that funded the new pool began construction as well.

As promised, the city is now undergoing a complete reconstruction of Northern Avenue between 9th Street and Arizona Boulevard. The work was necessary in order to replace a leaking irrigation pipe within the San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District.

According to Public Works Director Matt Rencher, the work includes a complete replacement of the pipes and do a full asphalt paving on the road. Rencher said the pipes that were leaking were around 80 years old. Part of the delay in beginning construction was also because of the number of agencies involved in approving the project.

“We were trying to get it done with the construction of the pool, but the pool was moving quicker than the road,” Rencher said. “The new road will last for a long time. We understand it’s an inconvenience we are doing the best we can, we appreciate the support from the community.”

Rencher said the construction company, Haydon Building Corp, was working to help provide access for the pool as well as to residences along the street.

The department anticipates two other major, federally funded, roadwork projects upcoming within the next year: a reconstruction and widening of Coolidge Avenue from 19th Street to Skousen Road, and along Vah Ki Inn Road, from 9th Street to Skousen Road.

Most of the construction on Northern Avenue is expected to be completed in time for the beginning of the school year on Aug. 2.