Miss Arizona USA Yesenia Vidales and Miss Arizona Teen USA Molly Schwanz, a Scottsdale resident, want to make a difference amid the pandemic.
To help those in need of food and financial assistance, Vidales and Molly have partnered with Phoenix Rescue Mission and its Hope For Hunger Food Bank to host a Valley-wide food drive.
“We knew how much Phoenix Rescue has done for others, so there was no other charity we wanted to team up with,” Schwanz said.
The Valley-wide food drive continues through the June and includes several drop-off locations, including four in Scottsdale.
The public can donate non-perishable food items to the following locations: Glam Squad Couture in Scottsdale, Scotts Training Systems in Chandler, Cryoworld Drip & Spa in Phoenix, AZ Fit Pro in Scottsdale, Spray Tan Queen Studio in Scottsdale, Hard Knocks Gym in Phoenix, Face Therapy in Scottsdale, Glow Blow Bar in Scottsdale, Regina Valenzuela Hair and Makeup in Phoenix, and Francisco Adame Dance Arts Modeling Academy in Phoenix.
Suggested donations include cereal, soup, rice, beans, pasta, pasta sauce, canned vegetables, canned meat, peanut butter, ramen noodles, mac and cheese, and crackers.
“We are so grateful to provide North Phoenix/Scottsdale a convenient drop-off location for their Valley-wide food drive and help fight hunger here in the Valley,” said Lynette Louissa, Glow Blow Bar owner.
“Both our Glow Blow Bar staff and customers have been asking how they can be more involved, and they can help during pandemic. No one should go hungry,” Louissa added.
This partnership is a personal one for Vidales, whose family relied on Hope for Hunger Food Bank to make ends meet.
“I can’t tell you what it means to me that there are organizations like Phoenix Rescue Mission that have a sole focus of helping families like mine — families that don’t know when or how they’re going to get their next meal,” Vidales said.
Vidales earned the crown of Miss Arizona USA earlier this year and chose to use her platform to give back to those experiencing the same struggles she and her family endured during her childhood.
“It means the world to us to know that Hope for Hunger played a part in Yesenia’s life, and we are so happy to see her succeed,” said Phoenix Rescue Mission CEO Ken Brissa.
Brissa added: “Yesenia is a prime example of why it’s so important for communities to come together in support of their struggling neighbors. She is a blessing to us and the entire community as a whole, and we wish her the best as she goes on to compete for Miss USA later this year.”
According to Brissa, the number of families Phoenix Rescue Mission has served has nearly doubled since last year at this time.
However, the most shocking statistic, he said, is that the number of new families is five-times what it was last year.
“[It] shows us that while we continue serving the people who regularly receive food from us, we are seeing a major increase in new families who are receiving help for the first time,” Brissa explained.
“At our Mobile Food Pantries, the line to receive food has been long even before we open, and we often give away everything we have within the first hour of opening,” he added.
Hope for Hunger Food Bank is the largest food bank in Glendale and serves families across the entire Valley.
Since the pandemic, Phoenix Rescue Mission has served more than 11,000 households between their food bank and their mobile food pantries.
“That represents over 32,000 people here in the Valley of the Sun,” Brissa said.
With such an urgent need for food and the need for social distancing, Phoenix Rescue Mission changed their food distribution to a drive-thru style.
“Though we could not provide many other services during that time, we put new procedures in place and reopened our food bank building to clients at the beginning of June,” Brissa said.
“With this new system,” he added, “we can finally get back to assisting people with other programs and resources that will help them move out of their needy situation, which is the heart of what we do.”
In addition to non-perishable items, Phoenix Rescue Mission is also in need of cases of water and toiletries for their summer heat relief initiative, Code:Red.
“Our street outreach case managers are out there finding the homeless where they are at and using water, toiletries, and sack meals to begin a relationship so that they can provide case management and the assistance to get these folks off the streets for good,” Brissa said.
So far, Molly said, the Miss Arizona food drive is going well.
She and Vidales estimate all 10 boxes will be “half or completely full” by the end of the month.
“Coming together as a community is going to be most important at this time,” Molly said. “We need to be supporting local businesses, lifting each other up and, most importantly, staying healthy. This time really made me and almost everyone I know appreciate the small things in life.”
In addition to helping organize the food drive, Schwanz has put an emphasis on mental health during the pandemic through her hashtag #becausekindnessmatters.
“Many people feel lost with no work [and] businesses closing, but I was an outlet to let people know that many others are feeling this way and it is completely normal. Our country will recover from this,” Molly explained, adding:
“My hashtag #becausekindnessmatters has been extremely important for me and many others. You don’t know what someone else might be going through so always be kind and do random acts of kindness when you can.”
Those interested in getting involved in the food drive can visit Miss Arizona USA on Instagram at @MissAZUSA or Facebook at @MissArizonaUSA.