The Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation, Inc. was founded in 1987 by brothers Gil & Troy Gillenwater. It was originally formed to provide food, clothing and shelter to abandoned children along the Mexican border. However, over the years the Foundation has grown to the point where its principal focus is now two fold.
One, Rancho Feliz offers housing and educational opportunities to those living in Mexico. It has been our experience that if the Mexican people are provided opportunities to live with dignity in their own country, they don’t want to immigrate illegally into the United States. And with our various scholarship and learning programs, we now provide educational opportunities to qualifying barrio children from 40 days old up through college. This is how we believe you change the world.
And two, and equally as important, Rancho Feliz provides on-border volunteer opportunities to those of us living in the United States. Under this program 1,000 volunteers a year - mostly young adults, travel to the border and help the less fortunate. At Rancho Feliz we call this “enlightened self-interest” and it means improving the quality of your own life by serving those not born into the same circumstances. And it works. To date, over 11,000 Rancho Feliz volunteers have traveled to Mexico and fed their souls by serving others.
This two pronged focus fosters a symbiotic relationship where givers become receivers and receivers become givers. At Rancho Feliz we provide an arena where both sides benefit equally from the same service transaction.
Since inception, Rancho Feliz has invested over $10 million in donations into its various programs along the Arizona/Mexico border. However, according to Foundation President, Gil Gillenwater, “Charity is tricky business. Welfare doesn’t work. That is why all of our Rancho Feliz programs are meticulously designed to nurture and liberate human potential – not stifle it thru well intentioned, though misguided, charitable handouts.”
For a volunteer based-organization with approximately 94¢ out of every dollar going directly into its charitable programs, Rancho Feliz’s accomplishments over the years in both fundraising, construction and education are unprecedented (as further discussed on this web-site).
Accordingly, founder Gil Gillenwater has been a recipient of the Hon Kachina Award, Arizona’s highest honor for volunteerism in addition to being one of select few members throughout the U.S. chosen to receive the National Association of Realtors Good Neighbor Award.
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