By Connor Dziawura
Sunshine Acres has been selected by Valley Partnership as the recipient of its 27th annual Community Project.
The project, which selected the Florence Crittenton Services of Arizona’s Scottsdale Girls Ranch last year, aims to support and benefit organizations in need of renovations with the project.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for members–and we actually allow non-members to engage in this as long as they’re connected with the real estate industry–to help us identify and weed through applicants that we select annually to give back,” said Cheryl Lombard, president and CEO of Valley Partnership. “Generally it means giving back by constructing or helping with an outdoor area.”
Sunshine Acres gives children who were separated from their parents a stable home. These children come to Sunshine Acres for a number of reasons, ranging from parents in prison to drug use, and even failed adoptions.
“They can come here and stay as long as they need a home, even through college or trade school,” said Carol Whitworth, president and CEO of Sunshine Acres. “We have room for 70 children and then, besides that, I have nine that are going to college or a trade school.”
One of the ways that Sunshine Acres trains its residents to lead a successful future is by teaching how to operate a checking account, says Whitworth.
Sunshine Acres, which is situated on 125 acres of land, opened its doors in 1954. While they accept donations, they do not perform any fundraising activities.
“We do not do any fundraising ourselves,” said Whitworth. “We tell our story of Sunshine Acres. That’s why we call it ‘Miracle in the Desert,’ because we have operated all these years.”
For Sunshine Acres, a strong sense of community is important.
“We tell our children that we’re family forever, so we don’t turn them out at 18,” said Whitworth. “They can come back and visit and be part of our family.”
Valley Partnership, the organization behind the Community Project, aids with responsible real estate development and provides networking opportunities and ways to give back, says Lombard.
While the full details of the plans are yet to be determined, Valley Partnership and Sunshine Acres have a basic idea for what needs to be done.
“Generally, it’s outdoor areas,” she said. “This is a kids’ area, so we’re looking at play structures, cover structures, connectivity to their mission…whatever closely meets the needs of the charity. We try to match it to them.”
“They are going to finish the Drager Park,” Whitworth expanded. “It’s never been finished up there.”
Renovations to Drager Park would likely consist of installing a new gazebo, lighting, shrubs and possibly a new play area, explains Jon Markwell, facilities director at Sunshine Acres.
“They’re going to build all of this in four-and-a-half hours with 250 people,” he added.
The approximately 250-person crew consists of volunteers, which are essential to Valley Partnership’s Community Project.
This year, Valley Partnership received 22 applicants for their annual Community Project. They are expecting renovations to cost approximately $100,000 to $150,000, which derives from donations.
“It’s quite a great opportunity for our members, nonmembers and really anyone with the real estate development industry to give back in a philanthropic way,” said Lombard.
Photo caption: Sunshine Acres’ mission is to provide a loving, wholesome, Christian home for children who are separated from their parents.