close up of family hands with piggy bank

A nonprofit is switching to a bigger virtual presence as it continues raising money to help needy families.

Nourish Phoenix, formerly called ICM Food and Clothing Bank, recently hosted their first virtual fundraiser. 

The event unexpectedly drew more people than anticipated, resulting in technical difficulties.

But it also raised $80,000 so far toward its goal of $175,000. The fundraiser, known as “Beyond the Pantry,” was originally intended to be an in-person breakfast but Executive Director Beth Fiorenza said the pandemic forced a change in plans. The event was sponsored by Lavidge Company, United Healthcare Foundation, American Discount Appliance, Comerica Bank and Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation.

“We decided to keep it, do it virtually over our website and still have an event,” said Fiorenza. “We’ve never really had an event in the past, so this was something that we were committed to.”

“We’re absolutely thrilled with the start to our campaign and so grateful to the people, businesses and foundations that have supported us so far in this endeavor, and also those who have supported us over the years,” Fiorenza.

“About 96 percent of our donations come in the form of food or clothing donations, so cash is really beneficial to us because it gives us great flexibility in the services we offer.”

“We have never done a fund-raising campaign before, much less one in an environment like we’re in today, so we were incredibly happy with the response from the community,” said Fiorenza. 

“Phoenix has always been a very giving community and our current circumstances with COVID don’t seem to have changed that mentality at all,” she added. “To already be more than 40 percent of the way to our goal in less than a week is heart-warming.”

She said funds raised will cover operating costs for its food pantry “but will also allow us to hire a new driver for our food delivery services that support seniors and those without transportation to get to our facility.”

NourishPhx provides free food, clothing and appliances to the community around downtown and south Phoenix. Fiorenza said clients also can make appointments to “shop” in their rooms for clothing, as well as other household items.

The organization also provides workforce programs and classes to help those obtain new jobs. 

NourishPhx President Mark Livingston said a new classroom in the organization’s building to provide lessons about financial literacy, healthy eating and more to their 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.

Added Fiorenza: “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.”

As for the change in name, Livingston said it is more in line with the group’s mission.

He said the organization’s goal is 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 NourishPhx will have more virtual programs and events in the future. Livingston said that they’re planning 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 going to try to do that virtually.”

Although the organization went through many changes like the new name and a switch to virtual events, Fiorenza said that it has not strayed from its 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.”

Information: 602-775-5740 or email beth@nourishphx.org. To learn more about how to donate cash, food or clothing or how to volunteer, visit NourishPHX.org. Food and clothing donations can be dropped off at 501 S. 9th Ave., Phoenix,      8 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday.

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