“This is the last thing I thought I’d be doing after retiring,” says Arthur Posner of his almost full-time volunteer work. He’s wrapping up four years as board president for IMPACT of Southern Arizona. But he’s still a “roll up the shirtsleeves” kind of president, continuing his weekly volunteer shifts in the organization’s food bank. It’s kind of become his passion.
Starting in a small slump block house in 2000 as the Catalina Community Resource Center, IMPACT continues to morph and grow as a unified health and welfare nonprofit. Its initial purpose was to distribute food boxes, meals and clothing for those in need in the Catalina community. It has expanded to encompass southeastern Pinal and Northwest Pima counties, serving about 750 families last year with a $2.5 million budget. IMPACT has a share in the Golden Goose thrift shop and is further funded through grants, in-kind and cash donations, and fundraising. Its annual fundraiser, Women of IMPACT, will be held March 23 at El Conquistador Hilton Resort.
Core services help people improve their lives, rather than merely exist on an emergency assistance level. As need continues to grow, unfortunately at a double digit rate, according to Posner, IMPACT expands services as they can be funded. Family-oriented services include programs for the homeless, for grandparents raising grandchildren, parenting classes, facilitating veterans’ services, referrals to community partners, English as a second language and citizenship classes, a food bank and a clothing bank, a commercial kitchen and senior center that serves lunch, has activities and delivers meals to the homebound. As if that wasn’t enough, the senior center is adding a new drop-in respite care program for caretakers.
The Jewish community around Catalina is very small. “Jews have been persecuted through generations,” Posner says. “Volunteering to help others shows our strength … in spite of the past, we need to help others prosper and live their dreams.
“I grew up very poor. Five of us lived in a one bedroom apartment. I didn’t realize we were poor until I got out into the world,” recalls Posner. “We grew up as Reform Jews and I did have a bar mitzvah. We had the party in our living room with all the furniture moved out into the hall. For two years I went to a Jewish camp, Camp Tranquility. At that time I didn’t think about helping others. It wasn’t until I got married and had children that I started to think of others.
“When my kids had a bar mitzvah, I wanted it to be different and special. I built a Torah ark with a stained glass Jewish star. We printed up a prayer book and borrowed a Torah. Our best friend officiated at the service. When the kids got older and I was more financially stable, I wanted to help others. I became concerned with the youth who were on drugs and looked for ways to help and mentor them. Today the youth are still a big concern of mine. This time it is not only drugs but also homelessness. I hope that we are making progress through my work at IMPACT.”
IMPACT relies upon a cadre of nearly 200 volunteers like Posner. “The volunteers do it because we believe in it and it is a good experience for both the volunteers and the clients,” he adds. “They become like adopted family. We’re there to help the community and it keeps your mind young. It’s extremely rewarding and everyone appreciates us.”
For more information, visit impactsoaz.org.