SIERRA VISTA — An effort that would help the homeless and the needy with vouchers for food and essential items could be up and running by Oct. 1, a member of the program’s board of directors said this week.
Scott Borgstadt, president of the Better Bucks of Sierra Vista board, also said the panel eliminated a step in the start-up process, which should get the program launched faster.
“We decided to form our own nonprofit and run it (the Better Bucks program) ourselves,” said Borgstadt, who is a corporal with Sierra Vista Police and one of the agency’s spokespersons.
Initially, the Better Bucks board was going to seek out a nonprofit in the area that would run the program. But that became a challenge during the spread of the pandemic because there were no volunteers at any of the local organizations, Borgstadt said. The board did receive a response from someone from one of the local nonprofit groups, but that went awry after it was learned the person no longer worked at that organization.
Borgstadt, who is president of the Better Bucks board, said member Joe McDermott was instrumental in getting the board to become its own nonprofit. Borgstadt said it was the logical step to take since the board is so familiar with the Better Bucks program and how it should work.
“The nine people on the board have done all the work to get it up and running,” McDermott said Thursday.
He said the articles of incorporation have been sent to the state and once that’s approved, the board will apply to the Internal Revenue Service for nonprofit tax exemption status.
The goal of the Better Bucks program is to give homeless and needy individuals and families vouchers for essential items, rather than give them money that could instead be used to buy drugs or booze, Borgstadt said. The Better Bucks vouchers come in booklets of five, each one for $1. The public may purchase the voucher booklets for $6. The extra dollar goes toward printing the booklets and other administrative costs.
The vouchers will include information on community services and organizations that provide assistance to the homeless. Some of the organizations that have agreed to list their names on the vouchers include Lori’s Place, Good Neighbor Alliance, The Salvation Army, Warrior Healing Center, St. Vincent de Paul, Arizona@Work and Goodwill Job Connections.
A one-day bus pass also will be included in the voucher booklet, Borgstadt said.
The Better Bucks board — the organization soon will be know as Better Bucks of Sierra Vista, the nonprofit — hopes to have a booth at the Art in the Park event the first weekend in October so that Better Bucks voucher booklets can be sold.
At a City Council work session earlier this month, Borgstadt told the panel that several local businesses would have to sign up to accept the Better Bucks for their products. The businesses would be reimbursed with cash by the nonprofit after the businesses provide the organization with receipts.
The Better Bucks board has sent requests to the corporate offices of several businesses that already support the same initiative in Flagstaff and have locations in Sierra Vista. Borgstadt said he hopes to have merchants on board by mid-August. He told the City Council the first business to sign up is Friends of the Sierra Vista Library. The latter said it would accept vouchers in exchange for books, Borgstadt said.
The local program was inspired by the one in Flagstaff launched by local police and the Shadows Foundation. Shadows, a nonprofit, has been working with the Better Bucks board here to help get the effort off the ground, Borgstadt said.
Start-up costs for launching the Better Bucks program will be about $15,000, Borgstadt said. The city of Sierra Vista has already pledged $10,000 to the board, said City Manager Charles Potucek.
Borgstadt said the board applied for funding from the Legacy Foundation and the Arizona Community Foundation. The board has received donations from the public, as well as from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Citizens Police Academy Associates.
Sierra Vista City Councilman Gregory L. Johnson praised the efforts of the Better Bucks board.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Johnson said at the work session on June 8. “A lot of people are concerned about the homeless population here in Sierra Vista. I think this goes a long way to prevent people from buying alcohol and drugs.”