Igniting Change Through Engagement, Collaboration


Wildfire takes on poverty

To better reflect a commitment to end poverty before it starts, the Arizona Community Action Association has changed its name to Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona.

“What’s in a name? Everything. It reflects what we do, our vision and our mission,” said executive director Cynthia Zwick. “Wildfire better represents who we are today and the work in which we are engaged: a growing movement to stop poverty before it starts, advocating for fair policies, supporting community action statewide and collaborating with local businesses, elected officials and nonprofit organizations in igniting lasting change.”

Zwick said that extensive research into the effectiveness of the name, Arizona Community Action Association, showed that “it didn’t clearly and effectively speak to what we do and underperformed in terms of awareness and recognition.”

Brian Spicker (Valley of the Sun United Way) paints a Wildfire asterisk on mural.

“Wildfires are powerful,” she said. “We chose Wildfire because ending poverty is a powerful goal. The name Wildfire is a visual symbol of our commitment. It’s bold. It’s memorable. It’s evocative. It makes people think. That’s what we want. We want to ignite change through engagement, collaboration, partnerships and a collective focus with influencers, elected officials, like-minded organizations and our neighbors and friends across the state.”

The driving force behind the change: poverty. “It’s complicated,” Zwick said. “The U.S. economy is rapidly changing at a time when wage stagnation and income and wealth inequality are already leaving many Americans behind.”

With nearly 46 percent of the Arizona workforce in jobs paying less than $15 an hour, “Three million of our neighbors are living on $31,200 or less before taxes,” Zwick said. “In Arizona, to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, you have to earn $17.46 an hour. Arizona already ranks 48th out of 50 for affordable housing for low-income individuals.

School teacher Sarah Keel and Jim Holbrook (APS).

“Our work at Wildfire will focus on creating an Arizona economy where all may thrive,” she said. “The impact of an inequitable system is unhealthy communities and families. That is unacceptable. Systems need to change to create truly meaningful and realistic opportunities for all of us to succeed in a rapidly changing economy.”

Among the strategies Wildfire will employ to address the issue:

  • Encourage and advocate for quality jobs: Wildfire works directly with businesses on collaborative strategies to ensure employees are able to meet their basic needs and businesses are able to thrive.
  • Promote access to foundations of financial security: Wildfire lifts up policies that address wealth inequality and works to ensure tools are available to help individuals build wealth and save for the future regardless of race, gender or economic background.
  • Ensure sustainable support systems: Wildfire envisions an economy where everyone is able to meet their basic needs on their income alone. Until then, they are committed to ensuring that support systems are available to families when they need them most.

“Poverty is wrong,” Zwick said. “We want to focus, in a collaborative and productive fashion, on solutions, even if it means reshaping the status quo.”

At the official launch event Wednesday, Oct. 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, attendees finished painting a mural by renowned muralist Hugo Medina (www.hugo.com) on a wall at the Phoenix Center for the Arts, 1202 North 3rd Street, which will remain on view for several weeks.

For more information about Wildfire, visit www.wildfireaz.org.

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