Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation Awards $100,000 to First Place® AZ for Nutrition and Gardening Initiative


Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation has awarded First Place® AZ, an Arizona nonprofit that serves individuals with autism and neurodiversities, with a two-year, $100,000 grant for its Sprouts First to the Table Gardening and Nutrition Initiative.

Funding supports the building of two gardens in the Phoenix area, the maintenance of two existing gardens in the Valley, the development of a corps of volunteers and harvesting of fresh food.

The two new gardens include one for Stepping Stone residential property developed by Native American Connections and the other for Spectrum Courtyard Apartments by the Foundation for Senior Living, both in Phoenix. First Place will also maintain two existing gardens at First Place–Phoenix and 29 Palms, the nonprofit’s first multigenerational property and former beta site.

First Place residents will be volunteering to harvest the gardens with property residents and use select, fresh ingredients from its own First Place–Phoenix garden for use in its culinary teaching kitchen, where they will prepare nutritious dishes and build out a new series of instructional videos.

“Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation is proud to support First Place AZ as a changemaker working to create healthier, more vibrant and connected communities,” says Lyndsey Waugh, Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation executive director.

“As individuals with autism gain greater independence, it is important they learn about healthy food options and sustainable ways to feel their best,” says Denise D. Resnik, First Place founder and president/CEO.

McCarthy Building Companies Southwest Region and its vendors committed generous support for the infrastructure build-out of the new Stepping Stone garden. Through McCarthy’s Heart Hats program, the company donated $32,000 in labor, materials and equipment. They also provided irrigation infrastructure, concrete work and ADA-compliant steel planters. In addition, McCarthy’s trade partners who donated materials and equipment include Sunbelt Equipment, Mardian Concrete Pumping, Arizona Materials, AMFab and Van Matre Lumber.

“We are passionate about strengthening our neighborhoods and improving lives,” says Brittany Calbert, project manager for McCarthy Southwest. “For the Stepping Stone vegetable garden serving the chronically homeless, we paid special attention to accessibility for residents who use walkers and wheelchairs. This project was a joy for our team and our incredible trade partners who collaborated on the build-out.”

First Place–Phoenix is an 81,000-square-foot, 55-unit apartment property with a suite of supports and amenities for individuals with autism, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury and other neurodiversities. Ushering in a new era of housing and community options for special populations, First Place combines apartments, the Transition Academy residential life skills program and the Global Leadership Institute to expand more independent, community-integrated living options.

“First Place AZ is grateful to Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation and McCarthy for empowering people with different abilities to actively engage in the community, build skills and learn how to live their best lives,” says Resnik.

This is the third Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation grant awarded to First Place. In 2019, First Place received a grant for its Healthy Harvest Growers Program. Award-winning local chef Charleen Badman hosted monthly cooking and gardening classes at First Place and succeeded in creating a loyal following with the desire and interest to adopt healthier lifestyles. A 2017 grant provided seed funding for the Sprouts Kitchen Network’s “First to the Table” video series of cooking courses for special populations to help them further hone their independent living skills.

First Place AZ, a charitable 501(c)(3), is advancing innovative residential and community options for adults with autism and other neurodiversities through its vision for fueling a new wave of real estate and community development. First Place–Phoenix, the nonprofit’s flagship property, is an 81,000-square-foot apartment community set in the heart of the urban area and recognized by PBS NewsHour as “the most autism-friendly city in the world.” The First Place Global Leadership Institute leverages this award-winning property to serve as an R&D site, support the replication of residential and post-secondary education models, and foster collaboration among the public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.

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