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AZ Non-Profit Generates Funding through “Social Enterprise”

June 8, 2009

Phoenix AZ - A non-profit Phoenix-area human services agency is using profit-making strategies to help further its mission. Interfaith Community Care president Michelle Dionisio says their new "Birt's Bistro and Bookstore" in Surprise is part of a social center for older adults.

"It's a local neighborhood gathering place. You can come in and know that you're going to be welcomed. You're going to meet new friends. If you want, you can buy a used book, or if you want to take a class, a free class, or learn a new skill, those opportunities are there for you."

Dionisio calls the Bistro a "social enterprise." The Northwest Valley-based organization also does catering and operates a second café in Sun City West. A next-door inter-generational center includes child day care, which is also expected to generate income.

Non-profits used to rely only on donations and grants, but Dionisio says incorporating profit-making components into social service agencies is an idea whose time has come.

"How do we find ways to continue providing the services we do, and not depend on one stream of dollars to support that? This gives non-profits the diversity they need in the funding, so that they can ensure that they will be there for a long time."

Dionisio says the biggest concern facing older adults is loneliness, which is why the Interfaith cafes will be open on holidays to provide seniors with free dinners and activities.

"If they live far away from family or they're not connected to a congregation or some type of club, when the holidays come they're pretty much staying home alone in front of a TV with a TV dinner."

Interfaith operates five adult day care centers in the West Valley and provides support services to help thousands of seniors live independently as long as possible.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ