SIERRA VISTA — After helping secure millions of dollars to help community health centers across the state reach into rural enclaves to provide care — especially COVID-19 vaccines — to the neediest citizens, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona toured the newest mobile clinic obtained by Chiricahua Community Health Centers.
The senator spent more than an hour at the Chiricahua Community Health Center in Sierra Vista Friday getting a firsthand look at how a $5.2 million grant he helped secure for the clinic is being used. The senator helped secure a total of $135.4 million in the COVID-19 relief bill for Arizona Community Health Centers, which included the $5.2 million for the Chiricahua Community Health Centers.
A spokesperson from Kelly’s office said the money will “help expand their work to vaccinate, test and treat residents across Cochise County.”
Kelly was impressed with what he saw at Chiricahua. He spoke from inside the newest mobile clinic obtained by the facility. The mobile clinic is housed inside a Mercedes-Benz van and goes by the name “Dardo,” which means “dart” in Spanish.
Chiricahua Chief Executive Officer David Merrell said Dardo — the eighth mobile clinic in the fleet — was named that “because it’s like a dart.”
“If you’re good at darts, you can hit right in the center, right where people need you to be,” Merrell said.
Kelly lauded the mobile clinic and the work being carried out by Chiricahua staff.
“These federally qualified community health centers are incredible assets in rural areas in our country, and definitely in our state,” he said. “Every state has rural areas and it’s hard to get health care. To take Dardo here and travel all around the county and vaccinate individuals, agricultural workers and getting doses of the COVID-19 vaccine into peoples’ arms, is critical (so that we can) get out of the public health crisis we’ve been in for a year.
“But beyond that they provide basic health care services for thousands of people every year and a lot of those folks are underserved.”
Merrell said the grant will give Chiricahua the boost it needs to continue its work.
“It will help increase our vaccination efforts throughout Cochise County,” Merrell said. “In this rural area sometimes it’s difficult to find people who need the vaccine or are unable to get access to the vaccine. It’s so rural that sometimes people have to travel an hour or more just to get to the site where we give the vaccine.
“This is going to help support a mission that we already started. With this grant we can develop our infrastructure so we can continue to meet people out where they live, where they work, so that they don’t have to take a day off work and still get the vaccine that they need.”
Aside from visiting Chiricahua, Kelly also spent time speaking with commanders at Fort Huachuca, with business leaders and at least one elected official.
He said the topic of conversation centered around the military installation and the community’s commitment to support the post’s missions and presence in Sierra Vista.
“Fort Huachuca is an incredible asset to our country from a national security perspective,” Kelly said. “It’s also a great asset to our state. It provides a lot of economic impact, a lot of jobs. As far as military bases go, it’s probably the largest economic driver in the state.”
He said commanders there told him they need a stable budget. The senator said none of the missions currently at Fort Huachuca are in peril of being removed, but he also said the installation “needs predictability.”
COCHISE COUNTY — Arizona Gives Day, an annual online fundraising event, provides the opportunity for Arizona nonprofits to promote their causes and gain additional donations, especially with the financial strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“2020 was a nightmare for most nonprofit organizations, they are so dependent on events and fundraisers and that couldn’t happen,” said Rebecca Dailous. “They are in dire need of support and funds. I feel that this year is more important than ever.”
Dailous, who co-hosts Cherry Creek Media’s KWCD country radio show with Val Davidson in Sierra Vista, said the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on local nonprofits.
Scott Pralinsky, executive director of Echoing Hope Ranch in Hereford, said the pandemic added financial strain.
“It greatly impacted our funding because many families kept their loved ones at home,” said Pralinsky in an email. “Our service hours were reduced and that reduced the partial funding we receive from the Division of Developmental Disabilities. At the same time our expenses increased because of buying personal protection equipment and paying staff that were out sick and the staff needed to replace them.
“The biggest challenge was managing COVID-19 with participants for whom change is challenging. Providing consistency for them when nothing was staying consistent was difficult. But our staff and volunteers really stepped up and we not only made it through the pandemic, but we learned and excelled in a lot of ways too.”
Theresa Warrell, president of Horse’n Around Rescue Ranch & Foundation in Hereford said the nonprofit had limited opportunities to host and participate in events during the pandemic, which restricted a critical source of funding and volunteer recruitment.
“We had only one of eight scheduled events over 12 months time due to the virus,” said Warrell in an email. “Events are opportunities for us to raise money, recruit volunteers, find homes for our rescue equines and get the word out to the community that good things are happening at Horse’n Around Rescue.”
Jodi Gaston, a volunteer with Horse’n Around, realizes the financial challenges of the pandemic in the nonprofit sector.
“It also shows you the impact that COVID’s had,” said Gaston. “My heart goes out to all these nonprofits shutting their doors because the don’t have the profits.”
Jennifer Purcell, senior vice president and director of Development Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, is hopeful Arizona Gives Day will help nonprofits that have been impacted by financial and member shortages.
“Last year, the public really stepped up to assist nonprofits affected by the pandemic by raising $6.1 million, increasing Arizona Gives’ year-over-year giving by a whopping 40%,” said Purcell. “We’re hoping the public continues to be generous and give what they are able since nonprofits have reported a staggering $91 million loss in revenue over the past year due to the pandemic and a $15 million increase in expenses due to additional PPE and technology costs.”
Warrell hopes Horse’n Around is are able to raise $3,000, which will help to sustain the nonprofit in its mission to rescue horses and feed its 56 equines.
Frank Liebsch, president of Sierra Vista Veterans Memorial Improvement Foundation, said the group is hoping to raise money to finance building 13 new veterans memorials and improving existing monuments around Sierra Vista.
“We have a goal for $100,000 in order to fund the memorial improvements that require a paved pathway that we will call Veterans Trail,” said Liebsch in an email. “We will also replace the flagpole with one that is more accessible for maintenance. We also plan 13 monuments to recognize the military branches and many facets of military service.”
To help support struggling nonprofits, Dailous said the Cherry Creek Media station will regularly create and air free public service announcements for nonprofits as long as they have a 501c3.
“Arizona Gives Day is such a passionate movement to support nonprofits. It makes sense to be a part of that energy and excitement every year,” said Pralinsky. “It means a lot to Echoing Hope Ranch to be able to share about the programs we provide, which include day treatment and training, residential, habilitation, respite, group supported employment and community supported agriculture.”
According to the Arizona Gives Day website, the event was founded in partnership with Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and Arizona Grantmakers in 2013 to encourage Arizonans to donate to local nonprofits.
“Arizona Gives has a cash incentive prize pool on April 6 that allows nonprofits to add additional dollars to their fundraising efforts on www.azgives.org,” said Purcell. “This year the prize pool is $160,000 with 84 opportunities to win additional money ranging from $500 to $7,500.
“Arizona Gives has raised $23 million in the eight years it’s been running. This will be our ninth annual event.”
Of the 1,039 total nonprofits registered on the Arizona Gives Day website, 11 are based in Cochise County and include animal rescues, wildlife conservation groups and human service programs.
Purcell highlighted the role that state nonprofits play in serving their communities and the economy as a whole.
“Annually, Arizona nonprofits have an economic impact of $23.5 billion, approximately 8 percent of Arizona’s gross state product,” said Purcell. “Arizona nonprofits also account for 332,000 jobs (171,000 directly), making the nonprofit sector the fifth-largest non-government employer in the state. Monetary donations are the most direct way to help a nonprofit make an impact and allow nonprofits to allocate funds where they are most needed.”