AZ Giving & Leading: 3000 Club

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The 3000 Club is a Phoenix-based charity that was born in 2008 as an idea to save a food bank that had lost its major donor. The idea was to get 3,000 supporters to donate $100 yearly. Besides feeding hungry families, the 3000 Club has expanded to include a farmers market, where you can buy 60 pounds of produce for $10, and a medical reclamation program to redistribute unused medical supplies to other countries. 3000 Club Co-founder and CEO Ethel Luzario will talk about her organization.

Ted Simons: The 3,000 club is a Phoenix-based charity that was born in 2008 as an idea to save a food bank that had lost its major donor. 3,000 club has expanded to include a farmers' market and medical reclamation program. I recently spoke to 3,000 club cofounder and CEO, Ethel Luzario.

Ethel Luzario: Thank you for joining us on "Arizona Horizon."

Ethel Luzario: It's my pleasure.

Ted Simons: 3,000 club, give me a better definition. What are we talking about here?

Ethel Luzario: The 3,000 club is actually a lock on an international and charitable organization. Going on since 2008--

Ted Simons: How did it get started?

Ethel Luzario: Well, it got started when the founder actually approached me and he said I need your help. A major donor walked out in the middle of the produce season and we need $300,000 to be able to sustain the food bank. What it came down to is he said if I can just get, you know, 3,000 supporters pledging $100 each, that will solve, you know, the problem. Well, I saw it challenging. This was in 2007, 2008. And the economy was taking a hit. So, coming from a for profit, you know, business side of it, I asked him, I said, well, what are we going to be giving back, you know, to this supporters in return, you know, for their $100? Because I'm a realtor, and I was looking at it as do I spend $100 into supporting a nonprofit organization or do I spend it marketing my business in order to able, you know, to get additional business. And what it came down to was we were able to get, you know, supporters, $100 a year pledges, and that's how it started.

Ted Simons: And so basically, the 3,000 club stands for 3,000 folks originally donating at $100 a year. Your idea kind of took it off to the -- what networking, nonprofits, small businesses can network and do other things and get involved in doing good things?

Ethel Luzario: That's how it started actually, Ted. In addition to their pledging the $100, we started the different mixers. We established, you know, different unit chapters throughout the valley whereby the members can actually promote their business while supporting a nonprofit organization. Pretty much unheard of in those days.

Ted Simons: Now, when you started all of this, and you got the 3,000, the 100 every year, and then you expanded a little bit, did you find success quick? Was it a quick success here, or did things move a little slowly?

Ethel Luzario: Well, we were able to find success in it because a lot of people really believed in the cause also. And back then we would actually haul all of the volunteers, all members to Nogales, Arizona, and when they come back to Phoenix, trucks full of produce. In 2010, why don't we introduce the market on the move, meaning that we would be bringing the produce to the valley, collaborate with organizations and set it up like farmers market-like atmosphere.

Ted Simons: You mentioned market on the move, and that is essentially a farmers' market.

Ethel Luzario: It is essentially a farmers' market and we bring in truckloads of produce into the valley every single Saturday from 7 until 11 in the morning.

Ted Simons: And I understand for donation, you get produce, what do you do with the produce? Is that produce then given to the needy?

Ethel Luzario: The program calls for $10 donation. And it's not intended -- it is intended for the people that have the $10 donation can make that donation, get the produce, and they can actually share it with people that they believe who are in need. So, in -- you know, relative terms, we're actually using the people to be able to be helping us through redistribute the produce.

Ted Simons: I'm sensing a pattern here. It starts with saving a food bank by getting people to donate. Now you have that operation to market on move to where you have your own farmers market and folks can donate $10 and get the 60 pounds or whatever it is of produce. I understand as well you have a medical reclamation program. That doesn't seem to fit. What is that all about?

Ethel Luzario: Well, what it was in 2008, I was actually part of humanitarian mission to the Philippines, and I've seen, having been born and raised in the Philippines, I have seen the need for hospital equipment because I've seen a lot of patients being in hallways without any beds. In the summer of 2008, there was -- there was an opportunity for us to be able to be recipient of three semi-truck loads of medical equipment. We said yes to that and that's how it started. We got donations of medical supplies. We sort and pack them and send them overseas. We actually help the local people also.

Ted Simons: My goodness. Do you work with another organization with this?

Ethel Luzario: We collaborate with Southwest Medical Aid in Tucson run by Salvadoran nuns also and they service the local -- and we have an office in Phoenix, whereby we get the donations of medical supplies and sort it there.

Ted Simons: Do I understand that the Lions Club is also involved?

Ethel Luzario: I am a Lions member also. We have different organizations coming through every single Saturday and it becomes their service project as well.

Ted Simons: When you first started and first got involved with the 3,000 club, did you see it moving on to farmers markets, to medical reclamation programs?

Ethel Luzario: There was -- I didn't have any idea then, but having been born and raised in the Philippines, we would hardly throw anything away in the Philippines. United States has an abundance of, you know, resources. What may be considered kind of, you know, discarded here can actually be a gold mine and can help, you know, the underprivileged overseas.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, what's next for the 3,000 club?

Ethel Luzario: Well, we're dehydrating products, meaning the produce, what we want to do, the children's program overseas as well. We want to be able to continue giving educational classes in our warehouse. Dehydration composting is in the works as well. And we will be introducing the dancing -- Dancing veggies.

Ted Simons: Can you give us a hint what that's about?

Ethel Luzario: The idea is to be able to engage the children to eat healthy. We will have auditions, three to five children, who will be wearing costumes also, and they will be doing the rounds of the -- and hopefully they will be able to engage and encourage, you know, the children to eat healthily also.

Ted Simons: It is wonderful local success story. Sounds like things are going well. Thank you for joining us.

Ethel Luzario: You are welcome.

Ethel Luzario:Co-founder and CEO, 3000 Club;

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