Local | Volunteer Salute

As board members, tutors and chefs, Kronmans aid many Tucson charities

Len Kronman prepares soup at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen. (Courtesy Len Kronman)

Since moving to Tucson 10 years ago, Len and Harriet Kronman have supported a wide range of charitable organizations, offering ideas and aid to help them expand. They have served as board members, tutors, program developers and chefs. “Now that we’re retired, we have time to volunteer more,” says Harriet.

Len, a former business consultant, used to spend his free time feeding the homeless in Boston. In Tucson, he has supported and volunteered at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and Casa Maria soup kitchen. Harriet, a former vice president and director of a marketing services company, has volunteered for organizations including Congregation Or Chadash’s Caring Committee and Mitzvah Magic, a program of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and Jewish Family & Children’s Services, where volunteers create baskets of food and gifts for Jewish families in need.

Of most importance to the Kronmans currently is an organization that they are trying to save. The Sister Jose Women’s Center, which serves up to 50 homeless women per day, is going to lose its home and the Kronmans have spent their time recently searching for a suitable replacement. The lease for the center’s location is up in May and “if we don’t find a new home, these women are going to be on the street,” says Len. “We use the term ‘we’ because we feel like we’re part of the organization even though we are just volunteers.”

The Sister Jose Women’s Center provides hot meals and a place for women to wash clothes, shower and rest. The Young Women’s Cabinet of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona recently donated 30 bags of toiletries to the center as part of its “Mahj and Mitzvahs” event.

With 800 homeless women in Tucson, the center is forced to turn many women away, according to the Kronmans. “It is the only place in Tucson that single women can go,” says Len.

The Sister Jose Women’s Center has been successful at fundraising and the Kronmans have helped by hosting fundraising dinners for up to 350 guests. But despite raising a quarter of a million dollars through various efforts, the center has not found a feasible alternative to its current downtown property. The organization is restricted geographically because it must be in a location that women can either walk to or take the bus at late hours of the night, says Len.

In addition to volunteering for the women’s center, Len and Harriet support the Literacy Volunteers of Tucson. Harriet currently tutors a Liberian refugee, teaching the mother of two how to read. She is also working on board development for Sister Jose.

Len incorporates his love of cooking into his volunteering. After moving to Tucson, he proposed an idea to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, suggesting they organize a culinary school. At the time they were unable to engineer the program, but five years later Len received a call asking if he and his wife wanted to be involved in Caridad Community Kitchen, a culinary training program. Now, every two and a half months at Caridad, a student graduates with the ability to work in the culinary industry.

The couple says their Jewish upbringings have fueled their enthusiasm for helping others. Even as a child, Harriet donated part of her allowance to the Jewish National Fund. “We both grew up in an environment of giving,” she says.

Both Len and Harriet say working with the Sister Jose Women’s Center has changed their lives. Len is inspired by the famous quote from the Talmud, “He who saves a single life, saves the entire world.”

“I know in my heart, a huge majority of these people will never get off the streets, but every once in awhile, it happens,” says Len. “I’ll give you an example. A teacher lost her job, lost her apartment, and ended up homeless. When she found the [Sister Jose Women’s] Center, it gave her the emotional support she needed and now she is teaching again.”