As a truly “grassroots” organization, Rancho Feliz enjoys the benefits inherent in a small but active Board of Directors. With just four members, decisions can be made quickly and the charity operated efficiently. All Board members are volunteers, each bringing his or her own special talents to the organization. As well-respected members of the community, the Rancho Feliz Board of Directors have access to a far reaching infrastructure of donated goods and services.
Gil Gillenwater is a lifelong Arizona resident. He attended college on football scholarships and graduated from Arizona State University. After college Gil and a partner purchased a Century 21 real estate franchise and built the company into the largest producing office in the western United States. Gil is currently a principal in the Scottsdale-based SDI, Inc. This company was founded in 1984 and specializes in land investment and entitlement. Since its inception, SDI, Inc. has purchased and sold over 10,000 acres of land located in and around the Phoenix and Sedona areas.
Gil is a black belt in Kenpo Karate, a certified Hot Yoga instructor and a certified Meditation practitioner. Gil organizes and participates in Rancho Feliz’s grueling, multi-day, extreme sport/extreme karma, fund raising events. He and his brother Troy have hiked across the states of Washington and Arizona as well as rafting across the state of Utah. He has traveled extensively throughout the world visiting over 50 countries. As a student of Eastern thought, he has concentrated his travels in the Himalayan “Hidden Lands” of Tibet. Gil has been able to successfully integrate many of the ancient Eastern concepts garnered from his travels into his charitable work. In 1997 Gil and his brother discovered the long-sought, “Hidden Falls of the Brahmaputra River”. You can find out more information about Gil’s Tibet travels here.
In addition to his involvement with Rancho Feliz, in 2005 Gil established the Guardian Warrior Foundation, Inc. Gil is President of this organization and he self-funds the charity. Gil is a recipient of the Hon Kachina Award, Arizona’s highest honor for volunteerism in addition to being one of five members throughout the United States chosen to receive the National Association of Realtors annual “Good Neighbor Award”, likewise honoring volunteerism.
In 2007, Gil traveled to India with the Free the Slaves organization. While visiting Bihar and Uttar Pradesh he developed the, “Free a Village” program. The program caught on and in 2009 former President Bill Clinton selected “Free a Village” as one of the key projects to highlight during his annual Clinton Global Initiative gathering of the world's top thinkers, donors and activists. Gil’s program and funding meant freedom for an entire village of 20 families who were bonded in slavery for generations in farms and carpet looms. Since its inception, several other donors have joined the “Free a Village” program freeing their own villages. This includes Rancho Feliz’s volunteer Director of Education, Jim Armstrong.
Jim is a founder, former Chief Executive Officer and current Chairman of the Board of JDA Software Group, Inc. (JDA) based in Scottsdale, a publicly traded company (JDAS:NASDAQ). With over 3,000 employees, JDA is the world’s largest company focused exclusively on providing Supply Chain software solutions. Jim is also the Chairman of the Board of Omnilink Systems (Atlanta), board member of NetTime Solutions (Scottsdale), a partner in Canal Partners, a private equity firm focused on software and internet solutions (Scottsdale), and President of JDA Investments (US), Inc.(Scottsdale).
In 1996, Jim and his wife Jo-Ann established the Armstrong Family Foundation. In 1999 they founded the Kiita Foundation. Jim is President of both organizations. These organizations are funded solely through donations made by Jim and his wife Jo-Ann. These foundations provide funding for various charitable organizations in Arizona and Montana focused primarily on children’s issues and education. Additionally, they have endowed a scholarship program at Arizona State University as well as an educational program at the Salvation Army South Mountain Facility in Phoenix. Please visit the Armstrong Family Foundation website for more information.
As an original member of the Board of Directors of Rancho Feliz, Jim also serves as the volunteer Director of Education. In this capacity Jim oversees a unique partnership with the Colegio Americano Anais, a private bi-lingual school in Agua Prieta. Jim coordinates the funding and management of over 60 private school scholarships and numerous other high school and university scholarships.
In 2002, Jim was the recipient of the Ernst & Young Arizona Master Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2003 he was the recipient of the Governors' Celebration of Innovation, Ed Denison Business Leader of the Year award. Jim brings his extensive business background to the operation of Rancho Feliz, constantly working for, as he would say, “The biggest bang for our charitable buck!”
Jim is a private pilot as well as an active volunteer in Rancho Feliz’s extreme sport, fund raising events. He is a native of Elliot Lake, Ontario and attended Ryerson College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Irene Carroll has been involved in development and land entitlement for most of her career. She served as a Vice President for the prominent Scottsdale development company DMB. Irene was also member of DMB’s Executive Leadership Team, composed of the most senior managers within DMB. Prior to joining DMB, Irene owned and operated Effistructure Residential, a land acquisition, development and entitlement company. She was also previously the Vice President of Land Acquisitions for Monterrey Homes and Division Manager for Richmond American Homes. Ms. Carroll is a graduate of University of Texas at El Paso and is a Certified Public Accountant.
In addition to her roles and responsibilities in land development, giving back to the community has always been a strong focus in Irene’s life. As an original member of the Board of Directors for Rancho Feliz, she also serves as volunteer Project Manager for the visionary Vecinos Dignos housing community for displaced families. Irene has been a mentor and role model for several young girls in Agua Prieta. Her leadership abilities and involvement with Rancho Feliz led her to receive national recognition when in 2004 she was named “Outstanding Woman of the Year in Construction” by the National Association of Women in Construction and the Del Webb College of Construction at Arizona State University.
An accomplished yoga practitioner, Irene has also run the New York Marathon and has participated in two of Rancho Feliz’s grueling, multi-day, extreme bicycling, fund raising events. She is also the proud mother of son, Derek Schurbon, who is an outstanding individual and high school Junior at Notre Dame Preparatory High School. Together, they have made many trips to Agua Prieta to share in the joy of service and spending time with the underprivileged.
Kim Kroger is a native of Phoenix, Arizona where she attended local schools and was graduated from Arizona State University. She is self employed to allow time for travel, volunteer work and charitable projects.
Kim is an original member of the Rancho Feliz, Board of Directors and has been a volunteer for Rancho Feliz since 1998. She was instrumental in initiating and operating the “Guardian Warrior” Sponsorship Program. Under Kim’s direction this program consistently raised over $10,000 per month in donations for the care and support of abandoned children and senior citizens in both Agua Prieta and Cananea, Sonora.
Kim spent a decade serving as a mentor to many of the family-less girls. In an effort to expand the abandoned children’s horizons, she has sponsored several trips to Phoenix where they toured the Science Center, Equestrian Centers, ASU, the Phoenix Zoo and other points of interest and education. Kim has coordinated the travel and appointments for many barrio children with special medical needs to visit doctors here in the United States. In addition, she has worked with children locally and was a big sister through Valley Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Kim is a strong animal advocate. She was instrumental in establishing one of the first “dog parks” in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is involved locally in animal rescue, directing Poverty’s Pets – a Rancho Feliz program that rescues abandoned, neglected, and abused companion animals in low-income and underserved communities. Through education and veterinary care (including spay and neuter services), it is the program’s goal to end animal cruelty, suffering, overpopulation and homelessness in the Phoenix area.
Kim’s experience with dog rescue is greatly needed in Mexico. Accordingly, Kim has established Rancho Feliz’s “Mexico Mutts” in Agua Prieta. Mexico Mutts currently sponsors much needed responsible pet owner education, mobile sterilization & vaccination clinics, and humane euthanasia. The success of Kim’s Mexico Mutts program has inspired the replication of a similar animal program in Obregon, Sonora. In addition, Kim donates to Amigos de los Animales de Guanajuato, another successful animal program in Guanajuato, Mexico.
Kim is a certified yoga instructor, an avid traveler and hiker and she consistently participates in Feliz’s grueling, multi-day, extreme sport/extreme karma, bicycle fund raising events.
Rancho Feliz is uniquely operated by a group of dedicated volunteers. We have only one part-time employee - Heather Allen. Heather has been Rancho Feliz’s Administrator since 2004. Due to the size and scope of Rancho Feliz operations, this job requires talents such as bookkeeping, website supervision, donor/sponsor communications, special event coordination and the list goes on (including brick laying, pounding nails and mixing cement when she takes her family to volunteer in Agua Prieta).
Her extensive professional background includes positions at Dow Jones, Inc., Conoco-Phillips, and UnumProvident. However, rather than climbing the corporate ladder, Heather opted to invest her energy in a higher calling. As she explains, “At Rancho Feliz I work in miracles. I help change people’s lives for the better on a daily basis. Next to my family, this is the most purposeful work I can imagine - it’s my contribution to the world.”
Working for the foundation has also given Heather the chance to introduce the ideals of charity to her two children, who have accompanied her and her husband on several service trips to Agua Prieta.
Heather’s charitable involvement extends beyond Rancho Feliz. For 12 years she has been the area coordinator for Warming Families, an organization that provides handmade blankets and clothing to needy families. An avid knitter herself, she has made and donated hundreds of sweaters, hats, and baby items. Heather is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting with a minor in Non-Profit Administration. She was recently inducted into the international honor society, Phi Theta Kappa.
Heather is a gift to Rancho Feliz and to our world.
The Republic of Mexico is a country rich in tradition, customs and laws. Many of these are very different from those found in America. Consequently, in order for a U.S. charity to operate effectively in this foreign country it has been vitally important that Rancho Feliz align itself with well respected and knowledgeable Mexican citizens. While the value proposition of the American dollar to the Mexican peso has allowed Rancho Feliz’s donations to be stretched and leveraged to the maximum, equally important has been Rancho Feliz’s ability to leverage its efforts through relationships and joint venture partnerships with upstanding citizens in the communities in which it operates. Rancho Feliz’s decades of volunteer work in Mexico would not have been possible without the aid and assistance of these Mexican counterparts.
As life-long residents of Agua Prieta, the Ibarrola’s have been instrumental in helping and guiding Rancho Feliz in its many and varied charitable construction and educational endeavors. Not only have the Ibarrola’s been invaluable partners in the work arena, but over the years a strong bond of personal friendship has been forged between the Rancho Feliz volunteers and the Ibarrola’s. The volunteers often refer to Queta as the “Mother Teresa” of Agua Prieta.
Fluent in both Spanish and English, Alejandro is responsible for the oversight and direction of Rancho Feliz’s popular and high-demand, volunteer “Exchange Program”. Averaging over 1,000 participants per year, this program houses American volunteers in its on-site Exchange Dormitory and puts them to work helping the less fortunate in the local barrios. Over the years Alejandro has become a “Legend of Service” to the thousands of individuals who have volunteered under his direction.
Rosy is a native of Agua Prieta. She is certified as a bilingual administrative assistant and has worked at a clinic that provides disabled children therapy with dolphins! She has been the on-site administrator for the Vecinos Neighborhood and the Learning Center since 2007. What Rosy loves most about working at Vecinos is the connection to the families and the vitality of spirit in the community. She says has learned the value of helping others in the years that she has been part of the Rancho Feliz family.
A few more people we'd like you to meet...