Healthy smiles for Naco’s children – Sierra Vista Herald

Every day there are hundreds of good people at work in our community making a big difference in people’s lives. With volunteers and staff, these nonprofits provide help for the hungry, the elderly, families, veterans and people in need of assistance. These nonprofits enrich us with the arts, history, cultural events and celebrations. They help improve our environment, caring for our land, plants, animals and the outdoor places we love. They provide educational opportunities to students of all ages and walks of life.

The nonprofit programs highlighted in this column share one common attribute – they have received funding from the Arizona Community Foundation of Cochise. ACF of Cochise makes grants to community nonprofits, schools and other organizations, helping these organizations continue their important work. ACF of Cochise manages many carefully invested funds so that those funds will grow from generation to generation, providing more dollars for future community support. Through their giving programs, ACF of Cochise puts that money to work each year all across southern Arizona.

In this first column, we highlight the Naco Wellness Initiative, a project that has improved the health of people in Naco, Arizona, and Naco, Sonora, since 2004. Their programs are overseen by co-directors Lupita Guadalupe Sanchez and Marielena Borquez. I had a chance to meet with Director Sanchez and Naco Wellness Initiative President and Executive Director Tom Carlson to learn about their latest project “The Little Smiles of Naco.”

The Naco Wellness Initiative operates a series of gardens and two clinics. They educate people in gardening, nutrition and personal health. They teach people how to avoid, or live with, diabetes and other chronic conditions. They serve as a center for health and physical education classes. They provide physical therapy for people recovering from injuries, strokes or other health setbacks. The Naco Wellness Initiative loans walkers, wheelchairs and hospital beds to people in need. Thanks to community support and grants, their work is provided at no or minimal cost. Their many programs log 10,000 visits per year from people of all ages.

The Naco Wellness Initiative recently received a grant from ACF of Cochise to help fund their newest project “The Little Smiles of Naco.” The program provides dental health education to grade school children on both sides of the border. With the help of student interns from the Dental School at the University of Hermosillo, oral exams were provided to over 1,100 kids. Seventy percent of the children were identified as having cavities or needing tooth extraction. “The Little Smiles of Naco” program is teaching children better dental hygiene habits now, so that they can enjoy a lifetime of improved dental health.

The Naco Wellness Initiative arranged for the donation of a dental chair and equipment to the Centro Salud rural clinic. The children, and the dentists who can help them, will now have a place to go to receive dental care. The Naco Wellness Initiative’s work addresses immediate health needs, but its goal is for people to gain skills that will help their families live healthier lives.

“The best part of our work is seeing the smiles from the people we help,” Sanchez said. “A thank you from the heart is the best.” As Executive Director Carlson put it, “Wellness, to us, is a healthy community.”

The Arizona Community Foundation of Cochise provides scholarships and grants in our community.

For more information about how to apply, call 520-439-0595 or visit ACF of Cochise grows its funds with community support. If you are interested in giving in our community, consider contributing to one of ACF of Cochise’s funds. Your dollars will become a lasting legacy that will continue to benefit our community.


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