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Ben Feeds Back: Making a Difference in Phoenix

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A bar mitzvah gives young adult men the chance to show their caring for others through a “Mitzah Project,” which is a decree in the Jewish tradition to perform a good deed and prove one’s righteousness. A 12-year-old in Scottsdale has taken this assignment to another level however, garnering state-wide attention and involvement for his cause: Ben Feeds Back. AFM talked with Ben about what his project entails, where the idea came from, and how our community can help to feed the multitudes of homeless women and children in our Valley on Sept. 30.

AFM: You mention on your website that the culmination of Ben Feeds Back is for your bar mitzvah, with the Mitzvah Project being a way to show care as a human being. Why did you choose homeless families to support?

BG: I wanted to do something that had meaning to me. Other than sports, I love food and going to nice restaurants. I once saw a video when a man surprised a group of homeless people with a nice meal—sort of as a nice prank—but they all loved it so much and felt special. It was really cool. I want to make people feel happy and that there is hope. These kids and their families never get to go out for food or do nice things. I wanted to make them feel special.

AFM: How did you go about organizing this project? Did you contact UMOM? How much of this project have you organized yourself?  

BG: It took a lot of steps at first. I had to ask lots of people to help me, research homeless shelters and try to find a location, design a website, and much more. When I asked Chef Matney to help me, I told him I still didn’t have a location yet. My mom and I went to see a few shelters and spoke to lots, but none were the right fit. Chef Matney gave us a contact at UMOM. My mom reached out to them first. I have done a ton of the work, but my mom helps me with the organization. Every day now, I am writing emails to people, updating my website and blog, still looking for suppliers and certain volunteers and trying to keep up with school and sports. It’s a lot of work.

AFM: Can you tell us what the night will be like? Is it a surprise? Any idea what food will be served, the décor, etc.?

BG: It is going to be a surprise for the people who come. The room is going to be draped off so they can’t see in. When they walk in, they will be greeted by a host and seated as if they’re in a restaurant. The tables will have tablecloths and there will be decorations. It will look fancy. I also plan on having music. As for food, there will be three courses: the first will be salad, then an entrée of short ribs, pasta and steamed broccoli with baby carrots, and finally dessert. I don’t have dessert donated yet, so I am still looking for a bakery to make 200 individual fancy desserts.

AFM: How have you been reaching out to vendors for products and assistance? Who has volunteered to help?

BG: Many vendors I went to speak to in person, some I have called on the phone and then sent an email. So far I have the following vendors: Chef Eddie Matney, McClendon Farms, Shamrock Foods, Rocking R Farms, Circle Key Farms, Local-One, Creative Occasions, Araya Photography and 48-Hour Media. I also have lots of volunteers for the actual event.

AFM: What do you feel this project has taught you?

BG: Take your time on things to get them right, if you don’t ask for something you don’t get it at all, how to create and edit a website and write a blog. Also, that doing a project like this a lot of work, a lot of people don’t have things that I have, and there are a lot of nice people out there who want to help.

AFM: And finally, how can we help?

BG: There are many ways people can help! One: help spread the word. Post my website, www.benfeedsback.com, to your Facebook page and share it with all of your friends. The more people who know about this, the more donations I can get for UMOM. Two: be cool and make a donation through my website to UMOM. You can get a dollar for dollar tax credit up to $400 if you select the working poor tax credit. That means your money can go to UMOM instead of your taxes to the state of Arizona. Three: I am still in need of the following items: 600 stems of random flowers, a bakery for individual dessert for 200 people, a bakery for dinner rolls for 200 people, prestige wear (fancy plastic plates, silverware and glasses), and drinks. If you can help with any of this, email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


To learn more and donate any of the above, go to: www.benfeedsback.com.




“It’s A DATE!” Singles Charity Auction This September

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Phoenix is quite often known for its bustling and attractive singles crowd, one that Scottsdale-based PR firm Crosby-Wright has taken advantage of for its upcoming charity event, “It’s A DATE!” Taking place on Friday, Sept. 19 at The Mint in Scottsdale, the event boasts a variety of successful Valley singles who’ve designed a “dream date” that attendees can bid on to win. All proceeds will go to The Care Fund, a local nonprofit that supports Arizona families currently dealing with an extended illness or injury of their children. A total of 25 singles will be available for auction, among them individuals like Arman Shields, real estate agent and former NFL-player, and Gloria Johnson, a pharmacist at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital. On why the Care Fund got involved with this imaginative charity event, Executive Director Cathy Sherwin says, “Single professionals are a very engaging, educated and giving group of individuals, whom we are specifically targeting to become aware of what Care Fund can do to support their own community.” President of Crosby-Wright, Valerie Crosby, says that when this opportunity came her way, she jumped at the chance to raise money and help local philanthropic singles. “Our community is full of interesting and successful professional singles, many of whom work tirelessly for charities. Our firm has long represented notable community business leaders, businesses, and highprofile charities like Care Fund. We will strive to help build their brand as a unique local foundation.” High-end fashion brands MaxMara, Kendra Scott and Hugo Boss have also agreed to provide clothing and accessories for the event, so that each single will look stylish and sophisticated as they describe their dream date to the highest bidders. This event will be open to the public, with interested singles who still want to sign up encouraged to do so at www.uniqueprofessional.net. The event starts at 7 p.m., and tickets can either be purchased for $35 online beforehand or $50 at the door.

To learn more about The Care Fund and buy tickets online, go to: www.thecarefund.org/events.



The 2014 Dream Rooms Contest Kicks Off!

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AZFoothills.com is proud to announce the 2014 Dream Rooms Contest for The Phoenix Dream Center!

14-065-16 Field of Dreams

Last fall, six Dream Teams, made up the Valley's top builders, architects and interior designers committed their time and services to The Phoenix Dream Center flagship program, The Rescue Project. The project is a national leader in the rescue, recovery and advocacy for survivors of human trafficking and crisis pregnancy situations.  

In June, the PDC unveiled the grand debut of six stunning brand new Dream Rooms. View the incredible redesigned rooms and cast votes for your favorites here. Voting is unlimited until August 4th and includes the following categories:

Grand Prize Winner: Best Overall

Best Two Person Room

Best Three Person Room

Best Mom & Baby Room

Best Living Area

Best Bathroom

Best Closet

Best Furniture

Best Home-like/ Comfortable Design

Best Space Utilization

Best Theme

Best Kitchen

14-065-12 Serenity Harbor

All the designers and their sponsors will be acknowledged in Arizona Foothills Magazine’s September Issue. The designer who wins the Grand Prize Category will be featured in an additional two-page spread in Arizona Foothills Magazine September “Best Places to Live” issue!

All the designers and sponsors will be honored at the "Where Hope Lives Breakfast" on Tuesday October 21 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort. Proceeds from this vital and inspirational breakfast will help provide safe housing and leading edge programs and curriculum that have been proven to effectively reverse the effects of human trafficking on its victims. To register for this very special event click here.

For more information on The Phoenix Dream Center and The Rescue Project visit http://www.phxdreamcenter.org/.


New Housing for Phoenix Nonprofit, UMOM

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UMOM New Day Centers is the largest and longest-running shelter in Arizona, serving homeless and impoverished Valley residents since 1964. Over their 50 years of existence, this organization has established food banks, permanent housing for mentally ill, medical and dental centers, and schools for those who have desperately needed their services.

On June 6th, UMOM was informed that due to a generous contribution of $12.4 million from the Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH) and The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, the organization can continue to expand its project to provide affordable long-term housing options for the homeless. “The financing…will allow UMOM to continue toward our goal of providing every needy family with an affordable place to live,” says UMOM CEO Darlene Newsom after the announcement.

This contribution will be used to demolish a dilapidated building in Sunnyslope that UMOM acquired in 2011, and rebuild it with 48 units of various one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. At least 34 of those units will be reserved for occupation by families, veterans, and those who have been chronically homeless. The build is projected to begin in early 2015, with the hope that those on the shelter’s extensive waiting list can move in by fall. UMOM also plans to utilize the donation to build a nearby community center next to the Sunnyslope property, which will offer GED tutoring, health and wellness classes, and job search assistance.

The organization currently has up to 75 families on the shelter waiting list at any given time, and the Parsons knew something had to be done. “The idea of standing idle while a waitlist for affordable housing grows is simply not an option,” says Bob Parsons. “There are families in this community who need a leg-up and a second chance at becoming first-class citizens. Renee and I have every intention to help make a long-term difference in the fight to end homelessness in the greater Phoenix area, and we believe that UMOM’s new housing community is a great next step.”

This wasn’t the first time that The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation has contributed to UMOM’s success. Back in 2012, they gave a sizable $5 million donation to allow UMOM to pay off their main campus’s mortgage, where they provide emergency and transitional housing as well as other services for the Valley’s homeless.

UMOM’s mission has always been one that many can stand behind, and continue to support: to prevent and end homelessness with innovative strategies and housing solutions that meet the unique needs of each family and individual. Thankfully, due to this latest generosity, they can continue pushing toward that end goal.

To learn more about UMOM New Day Centers: http://www.umom.org/

To learn more about The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation: http://tbrpf.org/




Phoenix Teens Hike Yosemite for Juvenile Diabetes Awareness

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ethan and haley

Arizona should be proud to call the Maurice family residents. Last year, Ethan Maurice, at just 21 years old, rode cross-country with his older brother to raise funds for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Their three-month long journey resulted in $96,000 in donations, and now Ethan is at it again. Accompanied by his 15-year-old sister Haley, the two Maurice teens will hike a 221-mile trek from Yosemite National Park to the top of Mount Whitney—all to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

This is a cause that has affected the Maurice family personally, with Haley being diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes at the age of eight. “I’ve seen Haley deal with this on a daily basis,” Ethan says. “Every night before going to bed she has to be at a certain sugar level or she could go into a coma or even die. We want to push for research to eliminate these complications.” Haley says that she attends JDRF camps and has lots of friends with the disease. Their personal struggles to stay healthy give Haley and her brother that much more of a reason to raise money for a cure.

When asked why this specific trail was chosen, Ethan says he’s wanted to do it for a long time. Once he mentioned it to Haley earlier this year, however, she wouldn’t let it go. “I am going to do this,” Haley said to her brother, so the two decided to hike it as a fundraising event. “The previous bike ride was so worthwhile and significant. Another fundraiser like this would be great, and for a good cause,” Ethan says about their decision.

The siblings have been training daily for the vigorous hike; working out, running and collecting supplies for the trip. To ensure Haley is able to manage her diabetes out in the wilderness, they plan to bring twice the amount of insulin needed as well as injections in case of emergency. The two expect to hike between 10 and 15 miles a day, and will only pass two re-supply points during the entire 221-mile hike. Without cell phone reception, the teens will use a satellite phone to update their parents on progress, as well as to post on Facebook for supporters.

The goal is to raise $221,000, which corresponds to the number of miles they will be hiking. Haley and Ethan are confident they’ll receive that amount in donations, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the JDRF. They are financing the entire trip themselves, and embark on July 16 for the three-week trip. To donate to this wonderful cause, go to the Maurices’ website: http://www.summitdiabetes.com/, and don’t forget to cheer them on via their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/summitdiabetes.

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