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Transforming neighborhoods transforms its organizer

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 3:24 pm

It didn't take Jeff Bisgrove very long to realize that helping to transform neighborhoods was transforming him.

Bisgrove incorporated Arizona Neighborhood Transformation as a non-profit two years ago, and he admits that his own transformation, following his retirement from Intel in 2010 after 25 years, has been significant.

"When I started working in Guadalupe, the kids there broke my heart. And I got closer to God through that, more than anything else I've done," said Bisgrove.

AzNT is a Christian based organization, said Bisgrove, but adds that he'll work with anybody.

The non-profit is holding its second funding raising banquet Friday, Feb. 1, at the North Phoenix Baptist Church. Admission is free. Bisgrove is hoping to exceed his $30,000 funding raising goal set last year, but is more focused on meeting new people and getting the word out about AzNT and its mission.

AzNT's mission is to "unlock" the potential that already exists in a community, said Bisgrove. The philosophy is generally known as "asset based community development." It has been around since the 1960, said Bisgrove, and sprung out of the Peace Corps.

The idea is to first determine what are the dreams, skills, and resources of the people living in a community. Assistance is based on what the community wants to do, and the people in the community do most of the work, Bisgrove said.

In the last year, Bisgrove has spent a lot of time in Guadalupe. The people in Guadalupe, Bisgrove learned, really wanted a tutoring program for their kids.

After the first organizational meeting, one person volunteered to lead the tutoring effort. Since August of last year, every Monday and Thursday night, from 20 to 35 children from kindergarten to high school get tutored, or are tutors.

Marina Gonzales, who volunteered to lead the tutoring effort and lives in Guadalupe, said that most of the tutoring is done one-on-one. And based on a survey she took, almost all the parents have seen a big difference in their children.

In addition to Guadalupe, Bisgrove is involved with 10 other communities in the Phoenix area. But it's not about transforming people so that they think and look like everyone else, said Bisgrove. It's about becoming friends with people and "letting God transform both of you."

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