Local | Volunteer Salute

Helping others, local man fosters own sense of belonging

Allan Mendelsberg at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides walk in Tucson on March 29

Allan Mendelsberg serves on the community advisory board for the Special Olympics. He began volunteering for the organization when he was a high school student in Denver. “I really enjoyed working with the kids and when I moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona, I just stayed with it.”

Mendelsberg, 29, says volunteering has given him a chance to make rewarding connections in the local Tucson community. As an advisory board member for Special Olympics, Mendelsberg helps organize the annual Breakfast of Champions held at the Westin La Paloma every October.

A member of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Young Men’s Group, Mendelsberg sees this affiliation as a means to connect meaningfully to the Jewish community of Tucson. “YMG has given me a place to belong — like having a family where I can grow roots and reach out meaningfully to others.”

Even through his work, Mendelsberg finds opportunities to participate in volunteer activities that benefit others. He serves on the board of the PICOR Charitable Foundation which holds an annual pancake breakfast fundraiser every October in Reid Park. “Through our fundraising we are able to grant funds to nonprofits that are focused on helping underprivileged youth.”

Another of Mendelsberg’s volunteer commitments had its genesis in personal loss. “One of my very close friends died of cystic fibrosis about three years ago,” he explains. “The people of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Southern Arizona reached out to me and we’ve worked together to raise a lot of money.” This is the organization that Mendelsberg says is closest to his heart. He has served on their board of directors for the past three years. He supports their two principal fundraisers in Tucson: the annual 5K Monster Mash run in October, where participants are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes, and the more formal November gala event held at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

When the AJP pointed out that many of his favorite organizations hold fundraisers in the same roughly five-week window, Mendelsberg laughed and admitted that there is calendar congestion. But he insists that it’s all very worthwhile: “Volunteering has given me a chance to feel good about being able to give back to my community. I’ve had the opportunity to build a successful professional life here in Tucson and through volunteering I’ve been able to cultivate a place to comfortably belong.”

Renee Claire is a freelance writer in Tucson.