PHOENIX — Meet Shawn Pearson.
Pearson is the founder and CEO of Zion Institute and the CEO of Black Family & Child Services of Arizona, two nonprofit organizations that offer a variety of programs and resources for children, adults, families, and business owners, primarily in South Phoenix.
While the community needs themselves are not new and existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, she said both organizations have seen a significant increase in requests for help over the last 12 months that has forced her organization -- and others -- to become more collaborative and intentional with the programs and resources they offer.
"COVID has absolutely magnified needs that already existed," she said, such as food insecurity, the technological divide, gentrification. "But, the reality of where we've been able to be successful is that we've also magnified the relationships that already existed and just needed to really be more intentional about the way we connected with one another."
Personal relationships vs. transactional relationships, she said.
The number of people needing help with food has quadrupled during the pandemic, increasing from 100-200 people per week to 400-500 people per week and has remained steady for the last several months, she said.
More business owners have also connected needing assistance and guidance after either losing their buildings due to the cost of rent and utilities, or needing less expensive co-op workspaces to stay afloat, she said.
For kids and youth, she said they've opened spaces where kids can go to do their virtual learning outside of the home and with teachers and assistants nearby, and also worked to get more kids access to computers in order to complete that schooling.
“We’ve seen a huge spike, not just in our community, but at large, for the behavioral health support for the kids, and stress management and crisis that our adults are entering into in the pandemic," she said.
Despite all of that, their doors are and will continue to remain open.
Like other nonprofits, donations, volunteers, capital, and mentors are always accepted. They're accepting nonperishable food items for the emergency food boxes, new or gently used clothing, and monetary donations to help support their programs.
The Zion Institute recently received $80,000 to help open a childcare and education center for low-income families at Life Changers Global Ministries of South Phoenix.