A Look at Downtown’s Participants in Arizona Gives Day

April 6, 2015

Ben's Bells, one of the many Downtown non-profits participating in Arizona Gives Day.

Ben’s Bells, one of the many Downtown non-profits participating in Arizona Gives Day.

by Joshua Levine

It’s no secret and it’s not news: Turn on a television, open a newspaper, turn on your computer and oftentimes the world seems like a cold, terrible place full of bad news made by people with bad intentions. It can get to be overwhelming and one’s view of the world can suffer. But it’s not the truth, or at least not not all of it.

For a variety of reasons, all of us here at the Downtown Tucson Partnership enjoy the privilege of seeing and experiencing the other side of human nature. It’s the side where ordinary people do extraordinary things, from achieving their dreams of opening up a business that serves the community, to organizing events on scales both large and small, where the sole intention is to make others’ lives better. And that’s not something to be taken lightly.

One such event is Arizona Gives Day, a 24 hour period on Tuesday, April 7 where nonprofit organizations throughout the state are coming together with a shared mission of raising funds and awareness for their respective causes that seek to improve the quality of all of our lives and nothing else. Countless nonprofits are participating, and a comprehensive list — as well as instructions that detail how you can be involved — can be found on the official website for Arizona Gives Day, but this article will highlight some of our local Downtown Tucson charities associated with the event, and the work they do to give back.


The mission of Ben’s Bells is as simple as it gets. It’s also as meaningful as one could hope for. Ben’s Bells is about the importance of being humane in our personal interactions as we move through life. Kindness is the operative word here, and on the organization’s website, you’ll find innumerable ways that everyone benefits from it. Try a little tenderness? Sure, but try a little kindness, too.

BICAS at the Downtown Parade of Lights.

BICAS at the Downtown Parade of Lights.


You see evidence of it everywhere in Tucson, especially Downtown: Bicycling is one of our city’s favorite pastimes, and with good reason, especially when an organization like Bicycle Inter Community Salvage & Art — better known as BICAS — is involved. Not only does BICAS provide the underrated but absolutely essential service of combining bicycling with recycling — one of its core tenets is teaching enthusiasts how to transform spare and scrap parts into the bicycle as a work of art. Add in programs to assist those in need of transportation, and what you have is a perfect self-description on BICAS’ website: “We are an education center, not a traditional bike shop.”


Over at 99.1 FM, which is local music scene-fixture Jason LeValley’s new community radio station, you’ll find more than just cutting-edge music that spans a wide range of genres. Tucked inside those radio frequencies is LPFM’s true purpose — making “Downtown Tucson a better place,” as LeValley writes on the station’s website. LPFM focuses on a number of social issues, most prominently getting mental health services to the people who need them most.


Tucson, in general, is known for its unequivocal natural beauty and wildlife, but it is organizations like Downtown’s Sonoran Institute that keep the birds singing and the water flowing. Finding the delicate balance between nature, restoration and the economics of how all of these factors work harmoniously with each other, the folks at the Sonoran Institute are who you can thank in advance for Tucson still being an oasis in 100 years.

The historic Rialto Theatre hosts great shows most nights of the week. Photo by David Olsen, courtesy of TPAC.

The historic Rialto Theatre hosts great shows most nights of the week. Photo by David Olsen, courtesy of TPAC.


It wasn’t much more than a decade ago that one of Downtown Tucson’s most famous landmarks, The Rialto Theatre, was quite different — in the form of a dilapidated state — than it is today. And what it is today — stately, gorgeous and grand — is due to the continuing efforts of The Rialto Theatre Foundation, headed by general manager Curtis McCrary and a long list of dedicated volunteers (of who you can read more about here). Without this team’s accomplishments, Downtown Tucson would be missing a historic and immeasurable piece of its soul.


To say that Access Tucson Community Media brings a necessary service to Downtown Tucson is the very definition of an understatement. This 31-year old institution provides democratized television content on Cox’s Channel 20 and most important, puts the power of mass media in the hands of anyone who signs up for the wide array of classes offered on all aspects of production, to say nothing of high-quality equipment — cameras, lighting, audio,etc. — also available to students and citizens. Access Tucson’s website tells more of the story, but let it be known that this area of community service is where power actually goes to actual people.


The Sonoran Glass School, located at 633 W. 18th St., is an educational resource seeking to inspire, educate and train the curious about the wondrous and unique forms of glass-based art. The institute offers classes, individual courses, seminars and even tours that focus on “glassblowing, torchworking, kiln-firing, mosaic, stained glass, coldworking,” and other forms of glass art, according to the school’s website.


A firetruck that responded to the fire at Hotel Congress that led to John Dillinger's capture in Tucson, restored by the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation.

A firetruck that responded to the fire at Hotel Congress that led to John Dillinger’s capture in Tucson, restored by the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation.

In any community, fire fighters are among the bravest and most selfless assets available — their one goal is keeping you safe. Despite their heroic actions, these men and women are flesh-and-blood humans, and need every means of support we can give them to help them do their jobs. The Greater Tucson Fire Foundation, which can be found at 300 S. Fire Central Place, near Cushing Street southwest of the Tucson Convention Center, helps train, educate and offer support for the general well-being of Southern Arizona’s fire fighters, among many other noble acts. The Foundation’s website is a treasure trove of other information that gives a deeper and deserved appreciation for these remarkable men and women.


The goal of Downtown’s Primavera Foundation (located at 115 S. Fourth Ave., along with their other Tucson offices) is simple: They help people escape poverty. Providing resources for job training and employment, housing and shelter and even methods of living an environmentally-friendly existence, the Primavera Foundation is, quite simply, an indispensable asset for all Tucsonans. Their website is a fantastic and comprehensive summary of all of their services.

The iconic All Souls Procession draws around 100,000 participants every year.

The iconic All Souls Procession draws around 100,000 participants every year.


Though mostly known for their yearly autumnal procession, a remembrance for departed loved ones, Many Mouths One Stomach, the organizing nonprofit for the All Souls Procession, makes it their mission to help the local artists that make this monumental Downtown event possible throughout the year.


It almost goes without saying that KXCI Tucson — located at 91.3 FM on your radio dial — is the beating heart of Downtown Tucson. The voice. The soul. The past, present and future of what Downtown Tucson sounds like. It doesn’t seem easy being all of this and more to the community, but this is, after all, the community radio station, and that means what KXCI receives from you, the listener, is just as important as what it’s transmitting out into the air.


Simply put, the Fox Theatre, at 17 W. Congress St., is not only one of Downtown’s most beautiful and exceptional concert venues, it’s one of the entire country’s outstanding theatres. The Fox Theatre Foundation nonprofit places a premium on the performing arts, and its accompanying importance to to uplifting the community in an indescribable manner. You can read more about the Fox here, and like all of the above organizations, it’s an entity worth supporting because it’s always there to support us.