Desert Mission: Meeting Basic Needs – Providing Respect & Dignity

Among other programs established this year at Desert Mission is a garden, assembled and planted by the Boys Team Charity North Valley Chapter.

Among other programs established this year at
Desert Mission is a garden, assembled and planted
by the Boys Team Charity North Valley Chapter.

By Kathryn M. Miller ~ On a weekday morning, just before Thanksgiving, dozens of Valley residents are lined up outside of the John C. Lincoln Desert Mission Food Bank and Fourth Street Market. A couple dozen more individuals fill the office and market space, as the staff and volunteers assist them. The heavy traffic is typical for this time of year, says Mallory Lebovitz, development manager at John C. Lincoln Health Foundation – Desert Mission Programs.

“Our numbers definitely go up during the holidays,” says Lebovitz. “On an average day in the spring, we see about 200 families per day – not individuals, but families averaging four to six members. As we move toward the holidays it jumps over 300 and then from November through the end of the year, we will probably be seeing about 400 families per day.”

Desert Mission Food Bank provides emergency food assistance to help families within its service area move out of crisis and into self-sufficiency where they can provide meals for themselves. An emphasis is placed on educating the Food Bank’s clients – whether through nutritional presentations or food preparation and gardening instruction – with the goal of self-sufficiency in mind. In addition, Lebovitz stresses the importance of serving the community with respect and dignity from the moment they walk through the doors, “building that customer service and rapport from the start all the way to finish.”

As a partner with the Arizona Association of Food Banks, the Food Bank has a defined footprint, encompassing about 150 square miles with a population of about 500,000 people. Desert Mission, however, serves all of Maricopa County.

Established in the 1920s as a way to assist those in need who had come to Arizona seeking treatment for tuberculosis and relief from other illness, it has morphed into what it is today with six key programs serving as the charitable services arm of the John C. Lincoln Health Network. The Food Bank was established in 1927, the Dental Clinic shortly thereafter. As the community grew, the medical needs grew and the hospital came about in the 1950s. At that point, Desert Mission separated from the organization.

“We maintain the charitable services arm of the John C. Lincoln Health Network,” explains Lebovitz. “In return for being that cornerstone of the community, they now provide all of our infrastructure, so dollars that are donated to the organization go right back out into the community since we don’t have that large overhead cost.”

The Food Bank is accepting in-kind and monetary donations for its various holiday programs, but Lebovitz says that the spring and summer months are equally important. “The need exists all year round, and January through March is a slow time for donations.”

The late summer months also see a significant drop in volunteers – even with corporate and individual volunteerism providing over 11,000 and 39,000 annual hours of service respectively – these volunteers are crucial to the daily operation of the Market.

Desert Mission Food Bank is located at 9229 North Fourth Street in Phoenix. Corporate groups looking to volunteer may contact Mallory Lebovitz at or 602.331.7856. Individuals can fill complete the volunteer application online. Learn more at |CST


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