Recognizing decades of tireless volunteer work and leadership with Scottsdale-based Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation, local philanthropist Gil Gillenwater was chosen by Premio a la Sonora Filantropia (Sonora Award for Philanthropy) as the individual philanthropic person of the year for the Mexican state of Sonora. Gillenwater is the first-ever non-Mexican citizen to win this award.
The ceremony was held, December 14, 2021, in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Premio a la Sonora Filantropia was established in 2005, in order to develop awareness and social responsibility among altruistic individuals, companies and institutions.
Gillenwater formed Rancho Feliz in 1987 with the goal of addressing both sides of poverty: from Mexico’s material poverty to America’s spiritual, or purpose, poverty. In addition to providing food, housing, medical care, and education to Mexico’s underprivileged, the organization offers a cross-border venue where American and Canadian volunteers travel to Mexico and find meaningful connections by helping those not born into privileged circumstances. Gillenwater says, “We feed their stomachs, they feed our souls. We call this ‘Reciprocal Giving’ and to date over 25,000 volunteers, mostly students, have improved their own lives by helping the less-fortunate. The volunteers bring this new-found awareness home, helping to reweave the moral fabric of our own communities. Everyone wins under our volunteer model.”
A lifelong resident of Arizona, Gillenwater currently serves as President of Rancho Feliz. “I am truly honored to receive this award and grateful to the many volunteers who’ve devoted so much of their time and support to Rancho Feliz,” says Gillenwater.
For 34 years, Rancho Feliz has raised and invested over $16 million dollars o build homes, education centers, childcare centers, orphanages and volunteer dormitories along Arizona’s southern border. The organization has distributed several tons of medical supplies, sponsored many medical procedures and dispensed more than 400 tons of food to provide 4.6 million meals to the hungry. They have funded over 2,000 scholarships and even created a spay and neuter dog program. “This infrastructure has provided the foundation for entire families to lift themselves from extreme poverty into the global middle class,” says Premio a la Sonora Filantropia award committee representative.
Gillenwater’s real estate career began in 1976. He and his partners structured limited partnerships that purchased, zoned and sold over 10,000 acres of land in Arizona. In 2007 Gil wound down his real estate career and focused his energies on travel and philanthropy. Gillenwater is a recipient of the Hon Kachina Award, Arizona’s highest honor for volunteerism in addition to receiving the National Association of Realtors annual “Good Neighbor Award”, likewise honoring volunteerism.
ABOUT RANCHO FELIZ CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
The Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation, Inc. is a volunteer-based, multi-national, secular, non-profit 501(c)3 organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona and serving in the community of Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. We are volunteers committed to redefining charity through “enlightened self-interest”. Please visit us at ranchofeliz.com.
ABOUT PREMIO A LA SONORA FILANTROPIA
Premio a la Sonora Filantropia is a recognition of the spirit of solidarity of men and women who work every day for the good of those who need it most. It was created with the idea of developing awareness and social responsibility among altruistic individuals, companies and institutions. It is a recognition of those who seek only one goal, to improve the lives of the less fortunate knowing that only in this way, we can aspire to be a better society. For more information, visit https://www.psf.org.mx/.
Monica Gery December 17th, 2021
Posted In: Awards
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,
To support this program, visit ranchofeliz.com/highly-houses
rfadmin August 17th, 2021
Posted In: Highly-Johansen Houses
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.
What a merry way to close out 2020 and leap into 2021!
VOLUNTEER RESERVATIONS ARE NOW BEING MADE.
WE’RE ALMOST THERE
make your tax-deductible AND matched donation
rfadmin December 8th, 2020
Posted In: La Hacienda Feliz
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!
Gil Gillenwater Jim Armstrong Kim WoodhouseDonate
rfadmin August 14th, 2020
Posted In: Emergency Response
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.
WE CAN CHANGE THIS.
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.
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.
|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
rfadmin April 24th, 2020
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:
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.
rfadmin 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
rfadmin 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
rfadmin 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.
rfadmin 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
rfadmin November 9th, 2016
Posted In: Extreme Karma Event