Scottsdale “Guardian Warrior” Philanthropist,
Gil Gillenwater, to Win Prestigious Award

Gil Gillenwater, Founder and President of the Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation. Photo Credit: RAEchel Running.
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.


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


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