Interfaith Community Services
HELPING PEOPLE IN NEED – ONE LIFE AT A TIME
One day many years ago a volunteer at Interfaith Community Services told CEO Bonnie Kampa that she needed to meet Lura Lovell.
Connections were made and the volunteer and Bonnie were soon chatting with Lu in her living room. It was just before Christmas and Lu immediately made a family holiday donation to ICS. It was the start of a long and happy relationship.
“Lu loved us and we loved Lu,” recalled one staff member recently.
That’s how this grassroots agency grows – one supporter at a time.
Interfaith Community Services is a nonprofit organization in Tucson with a staff of 28. That staff is there to support a powerhouse of more than 700 trained volunteers who serve people in need throughout the metro region of nearly 1 million. The volunteers represent nearly 80 different faith communities, as well as the community at large.
You’ll find them visiting the elderly or disabled, making home repairs, delivering meals, driving people to medical appointments, shopping for them, preparing tax returns, picking up donations for the food bank or helping jobseekers use the computer to prepare resumes and submit applications online.
ICS volunteers and staff are committed to doing whatever they can to help people get back on track – one life at a time.
A Culture of Compassion
Walk into the modest office in northwest Tucson and you will immediately feel the warmth and compassion. The caring is palpable.
“Our one and only mission is to provide services to people in need,” Bonnie said.
“What touches me all the time is people walk in these doors and they feel the compassion,” Bonnie said. “We come together to help people in need. At the end of the day, lives are being changed and improved.”
Social Services Director Terri Patt-Smith has been with ICS more than 20 years. She fondly recalls the little things that make a big difference – like fixing a bicycle so a man can get to his graveyard shift when the buses don’t run… providing violin lessons for a child who then earns first chair in his high school orchestra… or taking a woman in her 90s to visit her ailing 77-year-old son.
ICS also provides stop-gap funding for life crises – like pending eviction, utilities about to be shut off, a bus ticket to return home, medicine for a sick child, or dental care for a woman who wanted to fix her bad teeth so she’d have a nice smile and better chance of landing a job.
Lu liked this grassroots nonprofit and became passionately involved. She “breathed life” into meetings, one staff member recalled. Bonnie and Lu put their heads together to figure out how ICS could fit into the priorities of the Lovell Foundation
Helping Faith Communities Focus on Health
In 2008 Lovell Foundation began providing support for ICS Health and Wholeness Program which focuses not just on spiritual health but mental and physical health as well. The program helps faith community leaders integrate health-related activities into their congregations – because that’s where people in need frequently turn for help. Activities can range from onsite blood pressure checks to health fairs, support groups and training to address sensitive subjects like mental illness and end-of-life matters.
In 2011 Lu herself generously provided the final funding for the capital campaign to expand the onsite ICS food bank from 400 square feet to 2700 square feet.
In 2012 and 2014 the Lovell Foundation also sponsored the landmark Faith and Mental Illness Conferences presented by ICS, followed by well-attended regular lunch-and-learn forums on specific mental health issues.
The staff at ICS conducts in-home health advocacy evaluations for seniors and people with disabilities to identify those who are most at risk, then surrounds them with added support to keep them healthy at home. That support could be transportation, meals, home repairs, grocery shopping or home visits and check-in phone calls.
“We connect the dots for people and let them know about programs that will help them to be safe and independent.”
According to Bonnie, surveys show that after contacting ICS, 80 percent of households are able to meet immediate needs, access resources and develop a stabilization plan.
A Consistently Caring Presence
“Our volunteers are the eyes and ears of ICS. Our staff is here to support them,” Bonnie said. The volunteers have the ongoing personal contact and are trained to spot and report danger signs that may need attention. “A persistently caring presence makes such a difference.”
The corps of volunteers continues to expand. “There is an unrelenting demand for our services,” Bonnie said. By June 2014, ICS touched nearly 37,000 individuals with services, a 9 percent increase from the previous year.
There are volunteers who are regulars, coming every week to welcome visitors, work in the food bank or drive clients to appointments. There also are those “super” volunteers who come into the office for a half day several times a week. And there are those who once needed assistance from ICS, got back on their feet and began volunteering to help others.
“An older woman came to ICS because she was getting on her son’s nerves. He told her ‘we’ll find someone who will visit you – a companion,’” Bonnie said. “Before long she signed up to be the volunteer providing companionship to someone else.” Another volunteer was referred by her pastor. Recently widowed and depressed, she needed to find something to do.
“Those are the stories as valuable and important as any of the programs we provide. Those volunteers found a connection and a reason to keep going. We have so many stories like that.”
Umbrella of Services for Life’s Storms
Deborah Carr, ICS development director, said, “We are providing a place for people to do something extraordinary. No matter where you are in life, when you come to ICS you feel a sense of hope – that somehow a solution is at hand.”
Being part of this organization “reaffirmed my faith in humanity,” she said. “This is a place where people have passion for what they are doing – and are passionate for each other.”
In 1985 six congregations in northwest Tucson collaborated to establish the Northwest Interfaith Center. Bonnie joined the staff in 2002 when longtime co-founder, June Head retired at the age of 77. The name was changed to Interfaith Community Services in 2005.
When Bonnie took the reins the ICS budget was about $300,000. Today it tops $4 million.
ICS Board President Steve Pollyea said Bonnie Kampa is a visionary leader. “One of her greatest strengths has been to bring people from diverse background and beliefs together to join ICS in a common goal of serving those most vulnerable. Her ability to leverage efforts and resources helped keep ICS financially and organizationally strong and flourishing in a fluctuating economy.
“She has developed significant new programs, led the agency through three capital campaigns and established an endowment fund of nearly $5 million.” Under her leadership, ICS also has received the coveted four-star rating for the past five years from Charity Navigator – America’s leading independent charity evaluator.
Next up Bonnie and her team are initiating a model program that would connect hospitals with faith community leaders and volunteers so they can follow their members after they are discharged.
“We could work together to surround at-risk people with services that can keep them from ending up back in the hospital. A lot of recidivism is because people aren’t following through with basic care. Maybe they need mobile meals, a friendly visitor, transportation. What we’re looking at now is a model that really could have impact – to help people be healthier and reduce the return to hospitals and the cost of care,” she said.
In January 2015, the Lovell Foundation approved a three-year grant of $560,000 for ICS to develop the Faith and Community Health Network to bring together the rich resources of faith communities with the needs of the most vulnerable populations in healthcare –by serving as the bridge between the hospital and volunteers who will provide vital non-medical support, aftercare and transition services following discharge.
After 13 years at ICS, Bonnie retired in February of 2015. Board President Pollyea said, “Bonnie has achieved so much during her tenure. She leaves us a much bigger and better organization, in great health and with a busy agenda for the future.”
In February 2015, Daniel Stoltzfus took over the helm at ICS. “I am humbled to lead Interfaith Community Services (ICS) in this season of community outreach growth with the support of hundreds of dedicated volunteers, nearly 80 diverse faith communities and so many passionate donors. My goal is to build on the outstanding legacy of the leadership of Bonnie Kampa and our board that made these opportunities possible. We recognize that much of our growth and impact comes thanks to the guidance and investment of the Lovell Foundation.”