Small Town News
Food pantry, market, DES, power, clinic, school were WPCCC topics
The monthly meeting of the Western Pima County Community Council was held last Thursday with topics of discussion including the Ajo Food Pantry, the Ajo Community Market, a local Department of Economic Services office, Desert Senita Community Health Cente.r, Ajo school, books for pre-school children, the Ajo Community Golf Course, a new nursing practice, and power outages.
Brenda Smith talked about the food pantry, which was established at the First Assembly of God Church after the food bank program at a county facility ended. Smith said a drive-through program is set for the first Thursday of each month in which eligible families line up in vehicles for food products brought in by truck. She said that program is separate from the pantry, which is set for every Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon. Food is distributed to families with children and to senior citizens in need, usually once per month per recipient unless there is an extreme emergency involved. Smith recognized Don Olsen as a business owner who helps by taking food gifts to the needy.
The pantry project is looking for a large storage container, according to Smith. She said the refrigerated building used by the former food bank is sitting idle because "they didn't want it to just go to us."
John Cox talked about the Ajo Community Market, opening this week in the Plaza in the location of the former Cheeep Ole's. Cox said he helped bring a number of contributors together to make the discount food and dented can store a reality, and all net profits will go back into the community in the form of funds for the food pantry, scholarships, and other community activities. He noted that Deb Miller of Supervisor Sharon Branson's office helped with paperwork. A board of directors will decide where the proceeds will go. Judy Springer will be the store manager and Julie Ellis is keeping the group on track. Cox said the store is trying to keep prices 50% less than regular retail. He said contributors, donors, and volunteers are still welcome and may inquire at the store. A grand opening was held last Saturday.
Bonnie Baldwin, a program manager with the family assistance division of Department of Economic Services for Arizona's southern region, talked about upcoming changes at the family assistance office in Ajo. She said there is only one staffer at the local office, a clerical support person, and the office has been slated for closure May 31. In its place, a computer kiosk will be set up in the WIC area inside the Desert Senita Community Health Center. The kiosk will include a phone for interviewing applicants and a fax machine to send in applications. Baldwin said there will also be a drop box for those who wish to fill out an application on paper.
The Affordable Care Act, set to start in October, should not affect anyone who has AHCCCS now, noted Baldwin. She added that DES across the state is changing to an automated system such as computer kiosks because it is spending $38 million per year on office leases.
Goli Mostoufi of DSCHC added that the Affordable Care Act should not be affecting the sliding scale at the health center, but that everything is subject to change. She said it is an unsettling time for everyone regarding health care.
Mostoufi talked about projects at the health center. She said a number of gardening efforts are in the works, noting that Kat Stevens was recently hired to create programs for the school garden. Donation checks may be sent to DSCHC with "school garden" written in the memo line. National Screen-Free Day is May 1, according to Mostoufi, who encouraged everyone to get away from the computer and television and meet at Walker Park for a bicycle rodeo and other healthy activities. National Women's Health Week begins May 13 with mobile mammography on May 14.
Brian MacKenzie, principal of Ajo school, gave an update on testing at the school and other programs. His presentation is the topic of an article elsewhere in this issue.
Cheryl Langer reported on a program for preschool children known as Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Funded by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc and by the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, the library is a 60-volume set of books mailed one-a-month to children up to age 5. There is no cost or obligation to families receiving the books. Registration forms may be picked up at Salazar-Ajo Library or by calling Langer at 520-307-9394.
Greg Burton, treasurer for the Ajo Community Golf Course, encouraged everyone to visit the golf course. He said the course is currently hosting the Red Raider golf team, the weather is great, and the grass is growing.
Jeanne Stagner is starting a nursing practice in Ajo. Her presentation is the topic of a separate article.
Mike McCoy talked about power outages, saying he felt they might scare folks away from staying in Ajo, especially those with home medical equipment. He suggested people rally to pressure power companies to install redundant equipment. WPCCC will try to get an energy representative to be present at next month's meeting.
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