Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

This week, we’re going to speak with Helen Gomez from Ben’s Bells. She returns to our show to give us an update on the mission of intentional kindness and a surprise announcement from a celebrity commitment in an upcoming fundraiser. Who could it be?

Today is August 7th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on DowntownRadio.org- we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app. Reach us by email contact@lifealongthestreetcar.org — interact with us on Facebook at LifeAlongTheStreetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from Laurel Atkin, “Bartender.”

Transcript

Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the old Pueblo, and you’re listening to Kate Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown tuition, tucson community sponsored or rock and roll radio station.

This week, we’re going to speak with Helen Gomez from Ben’s Bells. She returns to our show to give us an update on the mission of intentional kindness and a surprise announcement from a celebrity commitment in an upcoming fundraiser. Who could it be?

Today is August 7, 2022. My name is Tom Heath, and you are listening to Life along the Streetcar. Each and every Sunday are focused on social, cultural, and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core, and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to you, Arizona, and all stops in between. Get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on downtown radioio.org and also available on your iPhone or Android by getting our very own downtown Radio Tucson app on the show. If you want

to reach out to us, it’s contact@lifelongthstreetcar.org. We are on social media, mainly on Facebook and Instagram. Our past episodes are on Lifelongthystreetcar.org, and our podcast is pretty much anywhere you listen to your favorite podcast. Well, last week I’d put a call out. I had a question. I was trying to find information about the mermaid parade, if that was coming back last time, it was held in 2019. And then we know what happened in the last couple of years with the pandemic. I was hoping now that it’s August, we might see the return of the mermaids, but alas, that is not so. I got the scoop there from our very own Frank Powers. He got me up to speed here. And this is something we hope to bring back, but certainly looks like we’re going to need help from the community and others to rally it up and get the mermaids parading back through Fourth Avenue in downtown. If you have any interest in learning more about that, just reach out to us here on our show and we’ll make sure to make

all those contacts so we can get this up and running for 2023. Well, our guest today has an event coming up here in just a couple of weeks. Her name is Helen Gomez. She’s the executive director of Ben’s Bell. She’s been on the show before. You probably know the Ben’s Bells green flower with a Be Kind logo. Seen it all over town. And most people, I think, know the backstory. But Helen’s going to tell us about how this organization began from really a place of pain and grief and now celebrating, I just found out 20 years actually starting in their third decade of spreading intentional kindness. So we want to have her back in an update on the program. There’s some cool projects to get involved with and also wanted to make sure you’re aware of an opportunity to support them coming up here in just a couple of weeks.

My name is Helen Grummers, and I’m the executive director for Ben Spells.

Well, welcome back. Not the first time we’ve had you on the show, but Ben Spells is one of those things that I don’t think you can have enough coverage on. You do great work in our community.

Oh, thank you. Yeah, we’re in our 20th year now, so we’re super excited.

20Th year? Oh, my goodness. I did not realize it had been around for two decades.

Yeah, that’s a big deal that we were kind of kicking off the 20th year. We were talking about how we have a whole generation of kids who have gone through our current campus programming. So it’s cool.

Yes. And how long have you been with the organization?

I’ve been here for about three and a half years. I took over in those big shoes that were jeanette Marie is our founder. So it’s been amazing.

Well, I know you’ve told the story and the origins of Ben’s bells thousands of times. I think it’s always good, though, just to refresh people. If you could tell us about Jeanette, her family, and sort of what, 20 years ago led to this organization’s creation.

Sure. So Jeanette, she started this organization in response to her son Ben, who died just shy of his third birthday. And it was just an ordinary day. He had crew, and so

his airway closed, and so she took him to the hospital and he passed away the day after. So as you can imagine, the family is dealing with the grief. And so one of the things that struck Jeanette was how meaningful and powerful people’s little act of kindness were to her and her family and just the outpouring of love that people would show them. And it could be a relative or close friend, it could be a stranger who was doing something kind for her, and it really struck her as meaningful. So in addition, she was also doing some of this healing with clay, doing some clay work. And so they would work out of her friends and her we always call them the garage people because they would work out of her garage and they would work on these wind chimes, essentially these wind chimes. And on the anniversary, first anniversary of Ben’s death, they put several hundred bells into the community. And it just was a reminder. On the tag, it says, to remember to share kindness. And so we still do that today.

And so 20 years later, we’re here with that same exact message that was so powerful to Jeanette 20 years ago. So it’s kind of amazing.

What drew you to the organization.

It’s funny, somebody was asking me, like, when did you first learn about Benfeld? And I’m a native Tucson, and I had to think about it. And I said, I don’t even remember finding I can’t remember learning about fence bells. It’s just kind of always been around. And so I think that speaks to the message of kindness. It’s just so ubiquitous here in Tucson. It’s crazy. If people don’t know what we do, we typically will say, hey, have you seen the green flower? Oh, yeah, I know the green flower. Be kind, people, right? And I think that really stuck to me just because I think it resonates so much here in Tucson because it’s such a special community that really embraces this message. And so for me, it’s always been and I thought Jeanette speak before and I was a total fan girl and I was super excited when I had the opportunity to work here.

Driving around town. Ben’s Bells, there’s so many different threads to what you do and you refer to the green flower. And if you’ve been in Tucson, like you said, any period of time you’ve seen a bumper sticker that says Be Kind, you’ve seen a mural, you’ve seen photos, you’ve seen all kinds of messaging about Be Kind and that seems to be the most obvious mark that you’ve been there. But the bells, these are a little bit more unique because there’s a special process, right, for someone to be awarded a bell.

There is, yes. The bell is special because you can only get it one or two ways. You can either find one first of all, I should say we don’t sell the full size Bin salt. So you would have to find one or you have to be bailed. And so the process for that is somebody has to nominate you to be bailed for something kind that you did in the community. So we’ve had so many people belt and we bell people four times a month. Every week we bell someone. And it’s always special to read the nominations. First of all, that people are compelled to actually fill out this nomination and tell the story and share the story of somebody else’s kindness is amazing. And we have a group of community members who choose who gets billed. But this is like my favorite part of the job is to be able to read all of these stories and then they get a bill. Yeah.

And it’s a surprise, right? Like they just sort of appears upon their door or something like that.

Well, usually what we do is I love them to be a surprise, but we typically ask the Nominator if they comfortable having to be a surprise or we should let them know. Either way, our education person lives. She goes out and she actually does them in person. Now, for a while we were doing a virtually because of COVID, but now we’re back to in person and she goes out there and she reads the nomination to the person. And usually we’ve already talked to the nominator and they get a bunch of people around. So it becomes like this little ceremony. We have this really cute one at elementary school, and it was a crossing guard, and we had this huge crowd of people who all knew this guy who would wave and dance and smile to all the cars that are going by. So it was actually really sweet. This whole group of people, community members, parents, just people who see him drive, when they drive by, they all stop by for this little ceremony. So it was very sweet.

And I remember last time we spoke, it always sticks with me because it was during Cobid, the nominee, that I think it just wandered. One recently was Doug Over, the owner at Feast. And you’re telling me he gets on a zoom call, thinking there’s going to be a couple of people and he’s going to get this recognition and there’s just so many fans and supporters on this call even sort of virtually just blew him away.

Yeah, that one was so special, especially during Cobad when everybody was just a tough time and he actually doug thought it was a catering request, and so he got on. And then there must have been 50 people on the call, including his mother and his brother, who no longer lives here. And it was just community members people. And that week he just happened to be nominated twice by two people who didn’t know each other. So it just speaks to all the things he was doing in the community at the time, which he still continues to do, but it was really special and there were tears. So it was a very sweet, special moment.

Well, I’ll make sure when we post this interview that we link back to your one from a couple of years ago because we talked more about the organization and how it’s spreading and some growth even nationally. And you can get to that article that we did with Helen, that interview with Helen a couple of years ago by going to our website. It’s lifelongistreecar.org. And we’ll be back to the second half of this interview and we’re going to find out who Helen’s surprise celebrity guest is for their upcoming fundraiser. But first, I want to remind you that you are listening to Lifelong, the Streetcar on Downtown Radio 99 One FM and available for streaming on Downtown Radioio.org.

Greetings and salutations, downtown radio listeners, paleo Dave, your unfrozen caveman DJ, here to spread the good word about the Scrambled Sunrise rock mix happening every weekday morning from seven to 09:00 A.m. Right here on Downtown radio from the earliest days of Psych punk and new wave to 80s college rock, 90s alternative, and the ongoing wave of 21st century indie rock. It’s all right here on the Scrambled Sunrise. So tune in via 99.1 FM if you’re in the greater downtown area or streaming worldwide via downtownradio.org.

It’s time to jump back into our interview with Helen Gomez, the executive director of Ben’s Bells here in Tucson, an organization out there intentionally spreading kindness throughout our community. And others. And just before the break, we kind of talked about the history and the origins of Ben’s Bells. Now we’re going to talk about some upcoming projects, including a fundraiser happening in just a couple of weeks, august 25. And really big announcement of a surprise celebrity guests that they have helping with their bartending. Because you courageously have invited me to participate in an event somewhat mislabelled and we probably need to set the record straight. And it’s a fundraiser with all kinds of activities. And one of the activities sort of leads into that third leg that I was talking about. You’ve got the green flowers, you have the bells, and then you have these beautiful mosaics all over town. So tell us about the events and the activities and the lack of celebrities that led

you to me.

Oh, we’ve got fine celebrities. The event is my kind of cocktail. And Nick at High Wire has graciously agreed to host us there for this event. And it’s on August 25 from five to 07:00. And it’s a celebrity cocktail hour, which of course featuring you and our board chair, Daniella Sugeros and the head baseball coach at the UFA Chapel. And so we’ll have cocktails. They’ll be mixing cocktails. And then we will be having an opportunity for people to work on tiles. And so the tiles that they’ll be working on, it’s actually a real special mural. It’s known as the Im Tucson Mural. So the class of.

Twelve or 13, right? Greater or Tucson Leadership?

Yeah. Greater Tucson Leadership, class of 2012. They have a class project that they have to work on. And you always have to choose what it is as a class, what you want to do. They chose to create this big mosaic tile that said I am Tucson. So the class at the time created a good majority of the tiles, but they worked with Ben spells so that we could help install and give them guidance and all of that fire all the pieces and all of that sort of stuff. Well, during some of the construction downtown, unfortunately the mural was taken down piece by piece because it’s large, like it’s going to be like a ten x 30 mural. And it got destroyed in storing. So in our 20th year, we thought it would be nice to recreate it. So we’re super excited to get the Greater Tucson Leadership, not only the Class of 2012, but Greater Tucson Leadership, the alumni, they’re all going to help. We’ve already had community members helping, we’ve had businesses helping. And so at this evening, people who attend will

be able to paint tiles that will go into this I am too thumbnail.

How could be a part of something historic and modern at the same time? It seems very appropriate for Tucson.

Oh, and it’s cool. And I’ve been looking at some of the tiles, some of the tiles, because we wanted to feel very Tucson, right? So some of the tiles that people will get to paint will be we’ve got Pinatas, we’ve got Havolna, we’ve got, of course you have a tiles. We’ve got things that are iconic. Tucson.

How cool to be able to paint something that’s going to be a permanent art installation on the front of the Tucson Convention Center.

That was my next question. I did not know where the final resting place would be for this. It’s going to be on the front of like near the arena.

Yes, it’s going to be between on the wall between the box office and the new hotel.

Oh, wow. Okay, so yeah, people heading over from Gem show, for example, over to the hotel are going to walk right by it.

Yes, it’s going to be big and they have graciously agreed to let us have it there and so we’re just super excited to get as many community members in to create tiles and be a part of this.

Well, that’s all well and good, but let’s get back to the real point of this event and the bartending. The goal here obviously is to raise money. So tell us a little bit about what’s the money going to be used for. How much does it cost? Where do people participate?

Okay, so the tickets are $25. We wanted to try and keep it very reasonable so we can have people out there and actually they’ll be at the event. Your $25 gets you one cocktail and then there’ll be food available for purchase through high wire. And all of the money will go towards what people don’t know about Ben spells is all of our kindness. Education, programming is all free. That’s all very mission based because it has to do with educating people about kindness. So what the funds will go towards is allowing us, the funds that we raise allow us to offer all of these things for free. So that’s what it will support.

And how do people I’m assuming the tickets are purchased, I should probably know some of these things, but tickets are purchased in advance.

Yes, you can purchase them in advance@bensbells.org and we will also have tickets available at the door. Okay. And the first 50 people who get to the event, who actually show up at the event get a special high ball glass with the Benfell’s logo on it.

Yeah, I happen to see those and I think that’s going to be a good so some bragging rights to walk around with the show. You’re an early arrival and got rewarded for that, right?

Yeah, it’s going to be a fun event.

Well, I am personally looking forward to it. Of course we’ll link to everything on our Facebook page as well. And as we sort of wrapping up here, 20 years, an entire generation have grown up with Ben’s Bells and we find ourselves in a very somewhat unkind climate right now. There seems to be a lot of divisiveness across the board in many areas. How does that impact your group? Do you see them out actively fighting for kindness? Do you have any thoughts on that?

What’s interesting is since COVID, we’ve actually had specifically from businesses as well as educators, they’ve been seeking out these kinds of activities and materials, the kind of education, because the fallout there’s a lot of fallouts, but the social fallout is that a lot of students have forgotten how to connect with each other. Like basic things like waiting your turn to speak if you’re in a conversation, not talking over somebody or being able to listen to somebody who doesn’t agree with you, which everybody could use right now. And same thing goes with kind colleagues, which is our kind of education for businesses. We actually just talked to a group that said a lot of people it’s been hard, especially in the healthcare industry, let’s say people are going through stressful times, their work is stressful. And so finding ways for them to remember to keep kindness at the forefront when you’re not feeling great and Jeanette always uses this image of kindness. It’s like a beach ball

that you have to kind of keep in the air. And it’s hard to keep it in the air when you’ve got all these other things that are vying for your attention. So when we say kindness is a practice, it really is a practice, because you have to remind yourself that kindness, you got to keep kindness up there even though all these other things are pulling at you. You don’t know how important what you do or say to someone else is to them because you don’t know what kind of day they’ve had. You don’t know if they’ve had a fight with their brother, sister, mother, partner, whatever. And how you treat people matters. And so we’ve had so many requests for that type of programming. So that’s what we’re seeing.

Well, Helen Gomez, executive director for the Ben’s Bells organization, head over to their website. It is so much more in depth than we’re able to cover in this interview, even check back on our previous one. But most importantly, while you’re over there, look at ways to support this fundraiser. It’s going to be a lot of fun, but there are other ways to support, so check that out@benzbells.org. Helen, I always appreciate your time, what you do in our community, and thank.

You for being a celebrity. It’s going to be so much fun.

And if you’re wondering, I did after I accepted the invitation to be a celebrity bartender, did copy and paste the definition of celebrity and send it to Helen so that they won’t make this mistake again. However, I’m in and I’m looking forward to supporting. My name is Tom Heath. You’re listening to Life along the streetcar downtown radio 991 FM and available for streaming on downtownradioorg.

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You have spent some time on Downtownradio.org. I always like to, when we have some time at the end, talk about how amazing our station is. Honestly, I listen to it all the time. I’ve got the app and it’s in my car. It’s when I’m walking just about anything I’m doing. I’m listening to Downtown Radio and I have said this for five years, but I’m just so impressed with the level of talent we have through our volunteer DJs. No one gets paid on the station, on board the people that do all the work behind the scenes. And our DJs are all volunteers. They just love what they do. And I hope you have an opportunity to listen to all kinds of shows. Just head over to downtownradioorg. You’ll see all the descriptions there. You’re going to find stuff you like. You’re probably going to find things you don’t know anything about. And that’s where I really enjoy digging into a whole new genre of music. Sometimes it takes me a while to get into it. The DJ during the breaks and explaining what we listen to,

why they selected it. It’s very well done. Talked a lot about intentional kindness today. Our radio station is intentional greatness. People are out there working very hard to make Downtown Radio a special place. Check it out downtownradio.org. If you want to know more about our show, head over to Lifelongthustreecar.org. We have some cool things happening. You, of course, know how fabulous our show is because we’ve got these guests that have come on for almost five years now and shared their stories. All those are available on lifelong streetcarorg. Also information on our new book. We launched this earlier this year. It’s called my life along the streetcar. It’s a collection of interviews with some information from me about why these articles and these stories were so important to me and so important for our community. They’re all from our first year back, from the end of 2017, beginning of 2018. And then I hired a photographer, James Portus, who is my partner throughout this whole process.

He went out to Fabulous Photos and did the layout of the book. It’s really cool. You can check it out on the website. And we’re excited because it’s now available, like out and about. You can skip all the shipping mess and just go to like, Mission Garden, the presidio museum. It’s now an antigony pop cycle, and we expect it to be in a few more places in the very near future. So you can always check it out on the website. But we recommend you go support your local businesses and our local museums to purchase those and help them make a little bit of profit on this as well. And finally, coming up here in September, about a little over a month away, we’re going to be relaunching our trolley tours. If you want any information on that, just over to Tucson Trolleytours.com. That’s another project that I do that highlights this urban core from Amun to the University of Arizona. Put together the tour almost exclusively from interviews that I’ve done on the show. So it’s a fantastic way to really

kind of bring to life a lot of the topics and guests that we’ve had. So if you want more on that, you can head over to Tucson. Trleytour.com Tours, tucsonralytours.com. Enough commercials, right? Let’s get out of here. Today, episode 212 is in the book. I want to thank Helen Gomez from Ben’s Bells. You can see her and support Ben’s Bells coming up here at Highwire on the 25th. And you can head over to their website, Benzbells.org, if you want more info on the amazing things they do throughout our community. And, of course, leaving you with music today, we had to tie into the theme of the show, so we found a version of a song. This is by Laurel Atkin from 2015. And the song, you probably have heard it a few ways, it’s bartender, have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life. Along the streetcar

we were drinking the whole night long rock and rolling and I’ve been forced decided to drink some more but when I look up the clock.

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