Since 1954, Sunshine Acres has stood as a refuge for children in desperate need of care, love and a chance at a bright future — but this 501(c)(3) Arizona nonprofit takes zero state or federal dollars.
The road paved by Sunshine Acres is one funded by private donors, according to Kevin Humphrey, the nonprofit’s executive director.
“Sunshine Acres Children’s Home was founded in 1954 by Jim and Vera Dingman,” he said. “The home has been a nonprofit organization since its founding. It continues to operate without the help of the state or federal government and has provided a home for over 2,000 children. In Arizona there are 102 group homes including Sunshine Acres.”
The mission of Sunshine Acres, 3405 N. Higley Road in Mesa, is simple, but mighty endeavor:
“Our mission is to provide a loving, wholesome, Christian home for children who are separated from their parents and help them establish long-term relationships with stable parental figures, preparing them for success in adult life.”
Mr. Humphrey says the amount of children in need is growing — and Sunshine Acres is only serving a portion of those.
“There are over 3,000 in group homes and five times as many children in foster care. We have a waiting list for children who want to come to Sunshine Acres to live,” he explained of the staggering state of affairs, which he says is compounded today with the ongoing pandemic.
“In the current state of Covid-19, we are even seeing more children affected by homelessness and poverty. We have in our master plan to grow to 10 homes. The only obstacle stopping us is making sure we have the operational funds to expand. Sunshine Acres prides itself in not having any debt and try to fiscally responsible with the donations we receive.”
--- Kevin Humphrey
Sunshine Acres provides respite for children who are privately placed, which Mr. Humphrey says is an important distinction those with state and federally funding.
“Our children are privately placed by their legal guardian,” he explained.
“In many cases our direct-care program allows children to remain outside of the Department of Child Safety. The children who come to us are from failed adoptions, incarcerated parents, homeless and even children of grandparents who can no longer care for them due to age or costs.”
Sunshine Acres, Mr. Humphrey offers, is a safe haven for children in need of a hand-up — not a handout.
“Sunshine Acres provides the emotional, social, physical, educational and spiritual support for the children in our care, so they may learn to manage their own affairs along with maximizing the development of their potential, abilities and interests,” he said of day-to-day operations. “Our goal is to facilitate a child’s ability to function within a community environment in a style both meaningful and purposeful to themselves and the community.”
Officials at Fiesta Bowl Charities agree with the notion, “the children are our future” but that means much more than a sound bite, according to Kristina Chumpol, the organization’s outreach and community relations director.
“When I hear ‘The children are our future,’ I think about the next generation of leaders who will influence our world and who we need to invest to develop and accomplish the amazing feats they will achieve,” she said.
“Whether they go on to be teachers, advocates, politicians, business leaders, they will leave their mark on this world. It is so important that we pour into our children to best prepare them for that responsibility — the mark they will leave on this world. We always say that we want to provide for our children so that they have it better than we did and offering resources and support is a part of that.”
Fiesta Bowl Charities, in this year’s grant cycle, offered Sunshine Acres $50,000.
“There is no question Sunshine Acres and other organizations like it make a difference in the lives of children who participate in their program. The trajectory of a kid’s life can be impacted so drastically when they experience trauma and crisis at a young age,” she said. “Sunshine Acres offers stability and a positive pathway to children when they need just that, and they experience positive mentors, quality programming and sincere guidance. For some, that’s the structure and direction they need to steer them on a successful life course.”
Mr. Humphrey calls the dollars and cents from Fiesta Bowl Charities a blessing.
“Fiesta Bowl Charities has been an amazing blessing for Sunshine Acres,” he said. “We were asked to submit for a grant and we were blessed to have been a recipient of the grant. Having the extra money has allowed us to move on projects that we may not have been able to start. It has enabled us to provide normalcy in these children’s lives and change their outlook on life forever.”
Ms. Chumpol points out places such as Sunshine Acres provides a place for some children to find a chance at an even shake as they grow into adulthood.
“Youth really don’t have much control in their childhood,” she said. “And, for those that find themselves in difficult circumstances, they deserve the chance for a better opportunity, which will lead to a better future. Sunshine Acres offers stability and a positive pathway to children when they need just that, and they experience positive mentors, quality programming and sincere guidance.”
--- Kristina Chumpol
Mr. Humphrey explains how important private donors are to the effort at Sunshine Acres — and potential expansion plans.
“We do not accept funds for the direct care of our children from any federal or state agency,” he said. “In fact, at the current group home rate, Sunshine Acres Children’s Home saves the state $3,168,200 in annual payments. We are not only impacting the lives of the children we serve, but we also are saving taxpayers here in Arizona.”
In all, Sunshine Acres hosts 70 children at one time with seven group homes on the property.
“Two additional homes on property are used to help our Transitional Living children, who turn 18 years of age and want to pursue community college, vocational, university or military,” Mr. Hoffman explained. “The children’s average stay with us is about two years, but we have some children we end up raising through adulthood. Our children are afforded opportunities that would not have been attainable because of their past situations. We also have many on-site programs to help the children deal with complex issues that they may have because of abuse or neglect.”
Go to sunshineacres.org