A Phoenix nonprofit is switching to a bigger virtual presence as the pandemic settles in for the long term.
Nourish Phoenix, formerly known as the ICM Food and Clothing Bank, recently hosted its first virtual fundraiser, unexpectedly drawing so many more people than organizers anticipated that there were some technical difficulties.
The Beyond the Pantry fundraiser was originally intended to be an in-person breakfast.
“We decided to keep it, do it virtually over our website and still have an event,” said Executive Director Beth Fiorenza. “We’ve never really had an event in the past, so this was something that we were committed to.”
Fiorenza had set a goal of $175,000 to continue its mission of providing free food, clothing and appliances to the community around downtown and south Phoenix.
Fiorenza noted that clients can
make appointments to “shop” in their rooms for clothing, as well as other household items.
The group serves an estimated average of 150 to 200 families a day.
Originally a part of the St. Mary’s Food & Clothing Bank, the Community Food and Clothing Bank was spun off with its own board of directors in the 1960s. In 1982, largely through the efforts of Dr. Culver Nelson of the Church of the Beatitudes and United Church of Christ,
Salt River Project donated half a storefront it owned at 315 N. Third Ave.
In that building, the clothing bank was combined with a variety of emergency relief services under the name Interfaith Cooperative Ministries, or ICM.
The organization also provides workforce programs and classes to help those obtain new jobs.
Nourish Phoenix president Mark Livingston said that the organization recently built a new classroom in their building to provide lessons about financial literacy, healthy eating and other services to clients.
“Instead of just giving people food, clothing and toiletries, we’re trying to help people better themselves and not have to be clients of ours any longer,” said Livingston.
“For the food pantry and for the workforce program, we’re making sure everybody that comes in to see us is being served and they are able to get what they need for their family,” said Fiorenza.
Livingston said it was time for the new name of Nourish Phoenix that would realign more with their long-term goals to help nourish others not just with food but with life skills as well.
“People come in and it’s a happy place to do other things, to learn other things, to better themselves and their families,” said Livingston. “It just resonated really well for me, the rest of the board and obviously a lot of the volunteers.”
With the success of the organization’s first virtual event, both Livingston and Fiorenza said that Nourish Phoenix will have more virtual programs and events in the future.
Livingston said that they’re planning on providing virtual tours to show the community the work that they do.
“We’re making a concerted effort to introduce new people to the organization,” said Livingston. “The best way to do that is to walk into the door and see the volunteers, the clients and see what we do on a day-to-day basis. Until we can do that, we’re gonna try to do that virtually.”
Although the organization went through many changes, such as a new name and a switch to virtual events, Fiorenza said that they haven’t strayed away from their original goals.
“We want to serve everyone however they can see us, whether it’s on the phone, or online, or if they can come in,” said Fiorenza. “We want to be there for our clients and their needs.”