Abuelita G. & Family

Rancho Feliz offers volunteer opportunities that help change the lives of Agua Prieta families—and the lives of volunteers, too.

Last year, a new home was built for a local grandmother (we’ll call her “Abuelita G.” for privacy) and her family. At the start of 2020, Abuelita G.’s husband passed away suddenly leaving her unable to afford to live in her already deteriorating home. She was struggling to care for herself and her grandchildren. Abuelita G. was the ideal candidate for the Highly-Johansen House program, named for Highly Falkner, the late philanthropist and longtime, generous supporter of Rancho Feliz. In just one weekend, a team of hardworking volunteers built her a brand-new wood-framed, insulated home.

Nearly one year later, we checked in with Abuelita G.

Despite pandemic challenges and the intense summer heat, the family is doing well. The house is well maintained, Abuelita G.’s grandkids are thriving in school—and for the first time in many many years, she feels settled and secure. She has expressed immense gratitude to Rancho Feliz and Highly-Johansen House volunteers for building her a home and giving her family a sense of dignity and pride.

Twice a year, volunteers with construction experience come from all over the country to make a lasting impact in Agua Prieta through the remarkable Highly-Johansen House program. As many as three homes can be built in a single weekend. Financial support is always needed to keep this program growing!

On behalf of Rancho Feliz, and the many families the Highly-Johansen House program has benefitted,

¡Muchas gracias!

To support this program, visit ranchofeliz.com/highly-houses

August 17th, 2021

Posted In: Highly-Johansen Houses

Matching Funds Grant Banner

Every dollar donated from now until completion

will be matched up to $75,000!

In addition to their prior donations,
Leslie Wittmann & Michael Blaszyk have pledged $50,000 &

Mike & Percy Anderson have pledged $25,000

in a matching funds challenge to finish this multi-generational facility.


Matching these funds will achieve our goal for the new dormitory.

What a merry way to close out 2020 and leap into 2021!  



Calling all Holiday Guardian Warriors!


 make your tax-deductible AND matched donation

Rancho Feliz Dormitory

December 8th, 2020

Posted In: La Hacienda Feliz

Update: “No Family Left Behind” COVID Emergency Meals


She’s my child.      She’s your child.      She’s our child.

In the Human Family we will all profit or pay for the way we care for our most vulnerable.

With COVID-19 crippling her paper-thin border economy – she needs us now more than ever.

Since May 1st Rancho Feliz has delivered 2,400 bags of food (45 tons) to the hungry in Agua Prieta.

This equals 57,000 meals!

$60,000 keeps this program alive for 6 more months.

It’s hard to do your schoolwork when you’re hungry.

It’s impossible to break the cycle of poverty when you’re uneducated.

We’ve each given to this Emergency Feeding Program and we ask that you join us.

We can do this!

Thank you!

Gil Gillenwater    Jim Armstrong    Kim Woodhouse


August 14th, 2020

Posted In: Emergency Response

“No Family Left Behind” Rancho Feliz Emergency Meals

COVID-19 has our world in a tailspin.
On the border, wages are down to $40 per week.
1,000’s have been laid off. Families are going hungry as the misery of extreme poverty sets in.

Crime rates are rising. 
Desperate people do desperate things to feed their children.

RANCHO FELIZ is Shape-Shifting 

Placing other projects on hold.
Our focus now is base-survival – FOOD.

We have fed tens of thousands of the poor over the last three decades, so this is not new to us. However, operating in a pandemic environment is.

We have asked our Mexican associates to follow the COVID-19 health guidelines in developing protocol for how and where the bulk food should be purchased, delivery taken, divided and individually packaged and redistributed.

To avoid crowds, food bags will be delivered separately to those families determined most in need. Our Vecinos & Scholarship volunteers will be on the front lines in this humanitarian effort and we remain equally committed to their safety. 

While food prices are rising, the $US dollar’s purchasing power is stronger than ever. Food bags will contain staple items as well as fresh vegetables and other immune-boosting ingredients.


It’s obvious – we are all in this together.

Help us help our neighbors south of the border who were not born into our same fortunate circumstances. As a lean, volunteer-based organization this is charitable leverage at its best.

Feed a family for a week. Each bag costs $20.

Rancho Feliz Call to Action Guardian Warrior
1 Food Bag = $20
5 Food Bags = $100
10 Food Bags = $200
20 Food Bags = $400
40 Food Bags = $800
100 Food Bags = $2,000
500 Food Bags = $10,000
1,000 Food Bags = $20,000
5,000 Food Bags = $100,000


Thank you for your support and we will keep you posted on our progress in the telling weeks to come.

Sincerely, Jim & Gil


April 24th, 2020

Posted In: Emergency Response, Rancho Feliz Charity Efforts

Gil Gillenwater Award

CHICAGO – During its annual convention from November 8-11, the National Association of Realtors® celebrated the 20th year of the Good Neighbor Awards, which honor Realtors® for their volunteer efforts to improve the lives of people in need. Fifty current and past Good Neighbor Award honorees attended the celebration this weekend in San Francisco, including Scottsdale Realtor® Gil Gillenwater and the three other living, original 2000 Good Neighbor Award winners. A photo of the original winners together can be seen below.

Gil Gillenwater founded the Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation after visiting Agua Prieta in Mexico intending to deliver food to the poor. Inspired and astounded by what he saw, his nonprofit has spent the past 32 years raising and investing over $10 million to build homes, education centers, child care centers and orphanages while funding 2,000 scholarships and distributing an untold amount of food and medical supplies.

The infrastructure erected by this foundation has allowed entire families to lift themselves from extreme poverty. In total, Rancho Feliz dormitories have hosted more than 20,000 volunteers who feed 5,000 people each week.

To acknowledge the ongoing impact Gillenwater and his three counterparts have made, each winner’s respective nonprofit was awarded a $2,400 grant on Saturday, funded by Good Neighbor Award sponsors realtor.com and Wells Fargo.

“We are incredibly proud of the cumulative impact that Good Neighbors have had in the U.S. and across the globe,” says NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco. “Gil Gillenwater and the other winners recognized annually for the past two decades represent the best of America’s Realtors® – those who sacrifice so much time and talent so their neighbors can live better, more fulfilling lives.”  

Over the past 20 years of Good Neighbor recognition:

  • $1.3 million has been granted to Realtor®-led nonprofits.
  • More than 200 nonprofit organizations have been funded.
  • Good Neighbors’ impact has been felt in 40 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries.
  • More than 4,000 Realtors® have applied for NAR’s Good Neighbor Award.

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

November 14th, 2019

Posted In: Awards

An idea born within the bounds of Scottsdale’s community continues to have far-reaching impacts in service to those in need — both domestically and south of the border. The Rancho Feliz Foundation was founded in 1987 by Scottsdale resident Gil Gillenwater in an effort to help locals “feed their souls by serving the less fortunate.” Since that time, Rancho Feliz has emerged into a Scottsdale charity with a dual mission. READ MORE




June 20th, 2019

Posted In: Rancho Feliz

At the end of 2019, the Dorrance Family Foundation of Scottsdale issued a $300,000 matching funds grant to Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation, Inc., a Scottsdale-based nonprofit that builds homes and provides food to the needy in Mexico.

The grant will be used to build a new volunteer dormitory in Agua Prieta, Sonora, on the U.S./Mexico border because Rancho Feliz has outgrown its current facility. The new dormitory, “La Hacienda Feliz,” will house U.S. and Mexican volunteers together while they build homes, distribute food and care for children and seniors in the area’s slums, fostering cross-cultural service experiences. READ MORE

March 14th, 2019

Posted In: La Hacienda Feliz

On April 15th, Rancho Feliz made headlines. We broke ground on our new 20-room, $1.6 million “La Hacienda Feliz,” volunteer dormitory in Agua Prieta, Mexico. The larger facility will allow us to house up to 70 volunteers at a time.

“We have operated the ‘Exchange Program’ for over 20 years. It changes lives. Working hands-on in the barrios, our volunteers experience a world very different than their own. Here they feed their souls with purpose and gain a new appreciation for their own fortunate lives. It expands their worldview. It makes them better people. It makes America a better country,” states Founder Gil Gillenwater.

May 1st, 2018

Posted In: La Hacienda Feliz

It’s hard to believe that in 3 days you can ride a bicycle from Douglas, AZ to El Paso, Texas. But we did! We picked up Pancho Villa’s trail in Columbus, USA, a town he invaded in 1916. Then we headed north to Mesilla where Billy the Kid was tried for murder. All riders holding up well. Even 76 year old Alex Klopfer is kicking it!

Today we pedal up and out of the Rio Grande valley and into the Black Range Mountains to the ghost town of Kingston. We received a $1,000 donation today so our goal of $18,500 is in sight. With a few more donations, next Sunday we will feed 5,000 people!

Lease help us with this international effort:  Donate HERE

November 9th, 2016

Posted In: Extreme Karma Event

On November 6, 2016 Extreme Karma Fundraiser – Emily Falkner – ran the New York City Marathon. She dedicated her run to raising money for our Barrio Scholarship program. She blew her goal away and raised $4,000! We are SO proud of you Emily.
Emily quote after race: “Best day ever! I New York!!”

Mariel graduated grade school with a 9.7 GPA. Her scholarship is for High School, where in her first semester she is the leader of her class and the point guard on her basketball team. Mariel wants to study medicine when she graduates High School.

November 7th, 2016

Posted In: Extreme Karma Event

Next Page »