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

This week, we’re going to speak with Jessica Johnson. She’s the co-founder of an organization called Cheers to Tucson, and they are fundraising to support those in our community who are in need.

Today is September 11th, 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 Gary Portnoy, “Cheers.”

Transcript

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

This week, we’re going to speak with Jessica Johnson. She’s the co-founder of an organization called Cheers to Tucson, and they are fundraising to support those in our community who are in need.

Today is September 11, 2022. 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. We shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to the University of Arizona 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 by using our very own Downtown Radio Tucson app. Just head over to your respective App Store or Google Store or whoever that might

be called. Make sure you get downtown radio Tucson on the show. Our email address is contact@lifelongthstreetcar.org. That same URL will take you to all of our past episodes. We really love it when you interact with us on Facebook or Instagram. And if you’re into podcasts, check us out just about anywhere you would find your favorite podcast. This is our first show on September 11. We started in 2017, and this is the first time that this date rolls around on our show. I want to thank and congratulate all of those who are over at the Convention Center arena this morning with the 911 Tower Challenge. And if you’re not familiar, every year on 911, people join together and they climb steps, 271 steps, in fact, representing the 110 floors of the twin Towers that fell on 911. They’ve done it at the University of Arizona football stadium. And now this year they did it at the TCC Arena, home of the Tucson Road Runners. So thank you all who supported and participated in that. And coming up later

today at the Rogue Theater, there is a performance of a play called Sweat. Their description is an eastern Pennsylvania bar. We see American factory workers vulnerable to economic changes and racial confrontations in a rapidly diversifying population. Dramatic and powerful. Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for drama. That’s going to be this afternoon over at the Rogue Theater. And we bring this up because earlier in the year, we had a chance to talk with the team over at the Rogue Theater. And you can head over to our website, lifelongstreetcar.org in the search bar there. Put in Rogue Theater and you can hear that interview. They had talked about this upcoming fall season and they’ve got some really amazing works happening there. And speaking of amazing works, we’ve got our featured guest today is Jessica Johnson. During the pandemic, her and a friend, Jen Wong, saw a need with our restaurant workers and started a program called Cheers to Tucson. That program has morphed now and is going

to be helping even more people in our community as part of the Tucson Food Project. So we had a chance to sit down with Jessica and find out how this program started and what we can expect to see at their big launch at Hotel McCoy next Sunday the 18th.

My name is Jessica Johnson. I’m a CPA, lives in Tucson, and I’ve got a background with working with some local nonprofits. And so the current nonprofit project I’m working with is called Cheers to Tucson.

Well, when I think of CPAs, the first thing I think about is Cheers because the CPAs are always a rowdy, exciting bunch. So that makes perfect sense to me. So cheers to Tucson. Let’s give a little background because this actually, you first brought this subject up to me almost like a year and a half, two years ago during the pandemic. Kind of tell us where the idea started and we’ll see where it’s morphed into.

A friend of mine and I, Jen Wong, who also does a lot of local projects. It was like March 2020, I’m sorry, 2021. And we were in the midst of just kind of trying to get through pandemic, entertaining ourselves. And one of the topics that came up one night when we were talking was the food and beverage industry. And at this point, most of the people were still out of work or delayed slowed hours or were doing delivery only or take out only. And so we just got thinking about that and how we could do some kind of give back to this group that was working on partial incomes. And so we came up with this idea called Cheers to Tucson. And the idea is that it would be merchandise that we procure from local vendors with 100% of the profits going into a pool that is used for a give back for a group of beneficiaries. And ideally, those beneficiaries would be workers in local food and beverage establishments.

Okay? So it makes perfect sense to me. Cheers to Tucson. The idea of supporting the local food and beverage community in the downtown Fourth Avenue main gate area, we’ve got a high preponderance of those establishments and a lot of those people were just struggling as the business owners were trying to figure out ways to get them paid and keep the doors open. There are a lot of pandemic relief efforts, but not everyone was able to it didn’t always filter down to the employees.

Yeah, and it’s not just that, but it’s also so many of these restaurants and bars were struggling so hard when they did go back to work with keeping employees. And so on top of a let’s help you out a little bit, it’s also a cheers to you, a thank you to you for sticking with the industry. We’ve got great as you are, well aware local establishments for food and beverage. And a lot of them made them through it and a lot of them didn’t make it through it. So for those that stuck around and weathered the storm, it’s really something to be celebrated.

Absolutely. I think a celebration cheers is an order. It sounds like a great event that we should all rally around and I’m glad you’re kind of putting this together. But the project has changed a little bit though. A lot of these people are back to work at this problem. Are you still focusing on that industry? Do you still see a need in there?

We do, and it’s still a group that is still loyal and still works in the industry and helps keep the restaurants and bars open. And so we still want them to be our first group of Beneficiary. And the idea I’m sorry, Beneficiary group. And the idea is that we’ll work with local restaurants to find out who the individuals are that are in need at the given time that we pull our first group.

Okay. And the concept, I think, is I always enjoy collaborative concepts and that’s exactly what you’ve created here. It’s not just raising money, it’s getting businesses that might not have money, but have merchandise or things that they can share and putting back in. Can you talk a little about how the process works, some of the organizations that are supporting you and then how that ultimately leads to money that will go to these beneficiary groups?

Sure. So the first thing is that Jen and I partnered with a local graphic designer named Christa Ying. She designed our graphic and our logo for the project. And the second thing we did is we needed to find a nonprofit to work with so that everything that comes in and goes out of the project has the appropriate tax pieces to it.

Oh, your CPA is always worried about appropriate taxes.

That’s where the Cheers comes in, is when we start talking about those taxes.

So if you recall, that’s when we reached out to you as a member of local first, and then you got us in contact with the Phoenix office, then in turn put us in contact with Tucson Food Project. And so their mission and Cheers to Tucson’s mission kind of lined up. And so cheers to Tucson is a special project being run by Tucson Food Project.

Yeah, and I’m not sure if people fully know what the Tucson Food Project is and we’ll link to their website from our Facebook page, but they’re really focused on food insecurity and sort of the ripple effects that happen when a family or individual doesn’t have access to just adequate nutrition and all the things that happen in their lives that stem from that. And so kind of putting Cheers to Tucson under that umbrella really makes a lot of sense to me because they’re also focused on collaborative solutions a lot of their products come from kind of that same mechanism that you’re talking about, where they get local providers to fill these baskets, right? Is what you’re creating with Cheers to Tucson. Are you creating that kind of same basket that people are purchasing or is it yours food or is it merchandise? What’s going in your project?

So the merchandise that’s being sold was all designed using our local logo. I’m sorry. And it all came from local vendors. And so we’ve got products from there’s about ten products. And we’ve got item from Tamline Printing DDO design to trophy. Desert rain bottle rocket candles. And Tucson Tea Company. So it’s either a product that we specially designed, like the stuff from Tanline Printing is t shirts and hoodies and bandanas. We’ve got glassware, we’ve got tea from Tucson Tea Company that just has our logo on it, bought a Rocket AZ candle. We are using their Baja cactus candle and it’s got our logo on it. Desert Rain is a jewelry designer and so she’s got these cute little cacti earrings that she designed for us. So that’s probably what I’m most proud of, is that everything has been sourced locally. Absolutely everything. And the merchandise is so fantastic. It’s great. We’re just so pleased with the work we did with these vendors.

We’ll be back to the second half of our interview with Jessica Johnson of Cheers for Tucson in just a moment. But first, I want to remind you that you are listening to life along the Streetcar in downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on downtown radio.org.

Greetings and salutations, downtown radio listeners. Haley O’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 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.

We are back to finish up that interview with Jessica Johnson. She and her friend Jen Wong came up with this idea of Cheers to Tucson during the pandemic. They’re now part of the Tucson food project. And she’s describing how they’ve worked with different vendors and partners to start a fundraising effort and excited for their big launch here coming up next Sunday at Hotel McCoy. Here’s the second half of that interview with Jessica Johnson.

Emma, I just went over to the Tucson Food Project website to the Cheers to Tucson page and I’m looking at this stuff and it’s really neat how all these products were able to incorporate that logo. The logo is really cool, by the way. I see here a trucker cap, so I am in. Awesome. I know what I can do here. So how does this process work? If you’re like say, for example, the Tucson Tea Company, they’ve got a product, they’ve packaged it specifically for the Cheers to Tucson process. And then you’re selling these items to the general public, correct?

Yes.

Okay. And then you said the profits. So I’m sure Tucson t probably needs some. If the TS are like for $11, that’s split between what Tucson T needs to create and then the rest goes to the project.

Well, with groups like Tucson Tea Company and Bottle Rocket Engines, they’ve got a wholesale price. And so we bought those items at wholesale. And so then the profits will go to cheers. Right. But then with Tan Line, that’s a little bit different because we worked with them to design and picked the Tshirt and the quality level of the Tshirt and whatnot. And so we just pay them the cost to print it and then all of the profits come to Shares to Tucson.

That’s fantastic. Yeah. Like I said, there’s several different options online. Are you still accepting new vendors if people are interested in providing a product, or you capped out right now.

So at this point, we’re capped out for this round. Okay. And the idea is that we’re going to run this first project round and see how the sales go. And we’re testing to see website sales. We’re also going to do some events. There’s a couple that we’ve got listed that we think where they’ve got some good vendor activity happening.

So you’ll be out like a booth. There’ll be like a Cheers to Tucson booth where these items will be for sale.

Okay.

So it’s not just online. There’ll be some physical ones. Okay, great.

Right. We’re also working with a few local stores that are interested in having our merchandise in house. And so that’ll be our third method of selling.

Okay. And you intrigued me when we were talking about this interview because you said something that is very important. You said something about Hotel McCoy and pool party. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember those things stuck out. Tell me, how does Cheers to Tucson, how does that get to a pool party at Hotel McCoy?

Yeah, so we decided that we needed to we don’t have a huge social media following. We’re running it through Tucson food project on Instagram. And the following is pretty low. They’re still building their social media group. And so we just really need something to do some marketing for us. And so we thought we love Hotel McCoy and they’ve got a great pool area. And so we decided to do a launch party there on September 18. And so that’s a Sunday. The time is from one to five. And I’ll be honest with you, until you’re still working out a few of the details, but there will be food, a drink ticket and a swag bag. And then we’ll have all our merchandise there for sale. The idea is to sell merchandise there, but even more so just to get people talking about tiers to Tucson. And we’ll have like a prize wheel where if you’ll come and follow our Instagram page, you can spin the wheel. So it’s a great way for us to communicate with people about Cheers to Tucson and to get people to Hotel McCoy because

Hotel McCoy is pretty awesome.

It’s a wonderful venue and it’s interesting because they seem to be getting a really good reputation for pool parties because this is the second interview I’ve done very recently where the end result or one of the big culminations is a pool party at Hotel McCoy. And I think, like you said, they got a really cool pool area. Do you expect this event on the 18th to be a paid event where you’re paying tickets to get in? Or is it just hopeful people will show and then they will buy merchandise?

It is a paid event, okay. So that we can cover food costs and use it costs and set up costs and all of that stuff. And Hotel McCoy doesn’t charge us anything, but for all the costs that go into it to do it, we do have to make it a paid event since we’re a nonprofit.

Understood. Tickets available? Are those still to come?

Tickets are not available, but as soon as they are, we’ll launch them on our Tucson Food Project Instagram page and we hope to have those available by the end of the week.

Okay, so by the time this airs, they might actually be available. And if so, we’ll make sure we make that note. And then are you looking for sponsors of this event or is that not something that would fit in because you already have enough sponsorship with Cheers to Tucson.

We would love sponsors in general for Cheers to Tucson. And there’s multiple opportunities for that. And one of those opportunities is in providing items for our gift baskets that will go to the beneficiaries eventually.

If you’re a grocer, like a discounted grocery store or grocery gift card, I’m sorry. Or if you’ve got, if you’re some kind of food vendor, maybe you’ve got, you know, cookies or your sauce or whatever your salsa that you want to include in the basket. So those are all great sponsorships, obviously. Also any kind of monetary sponsorship is more than welcomed. And there’s some information about that on our Cheers to Tucson page that runs through Tucson Food Project.

Okay. And again, we’ll link to that. It’s Tucsonfoodproject.org. And then you just click on the choose to Tucson. And I’m looking at it. You’ve got all of your merchandise available right here. Easy to order, but you can pick up probably all this stuff on September 18 when you come by Hotel McCoy.

Yes.

And I see on here. Okay, so you definitely have product partners, community partner sponsors. So really if you want to support an effort that is helping to take advantage of people in our community that have been disadvantaged and the initial focus was on the restaurant industry and you are collecting the money and then when does it then get distributed? Is this something that’s done once a year or how does the money get distributed out to the community?

The first round will be at Thanksgiving time and so we think that’s a good time when people could use anyone could use a little bit extra. We don’t want to wait all the way until the end of the year. So we’re hoping mid November.

Okay, and then how are the groups selected? You said you’re going to reach out to businesses, but then do you have like a committee that determines who’s best suited for receiving the benefits?

That’s exactly right.

Okay, perfect. I thought you were going to tell me. No, it’s just me and I’m picking my friends.

Yeah, that’s right.

That’s how we do it.

Definitely committee based and definitely probably around a month before is when we’ll start reaching out to local restaurants. We’ve got a huge list that we’ve generated through multiple sources and so we’ll reach out to them and ask them if they know of anyone particularly in need and then it’ll be a super short application. Right. Just where does this person work? Why do you think they’re deserving of this? Nothing super complicated and then yeah, the committee will decide from there. Again, our main focus is on local restaurants just because we love Tucson and we love local so local food and beverage establishments will be our focus.

Fantastic. And you’re on Instagram, but through the Tucson food project. Do you have a Facebook presence or is everything right now just the Instagram and Tucson Food Project?

Just Tucson Food Project and Instagram.

Okay. So we will share those as well from our respective pages and make sure people can connect to you there. I think the easiest way is just to go to the website Tucsonfoodproject.org. Cheers to Tucson. There’s a contact us button, you can buy everything there. And I’m assuming in the very near future, maybe by the time this even airs, that there will be a link to purchase tickets for the September 18 pool party there.

Will it’ll be on our site and also through eventbrite.

Okay. Jessica, I think it’s not understated to say that individuals like yourself, Jen, others that are doing this, there’s no inherent benefit to you as an individual, just as a part of our community and seeing a need and then stepping up and going through this effort to get to the point a year and a half later to stick with it and get this thing to launch. That in of itself is just tremendous. And I think with how cool the logo is, this partnerships that you have, this is something that could really I think it’s going to do very well in our community. I think it’s the right fit for two. So I’m excited to see where it goes and I appreciate you sharing it with us here before it gets going.

Yeah. Thanks, Tom. So I need to just mention a couple of other people and that’s Sarah Patterson and Jesse Wayne. They’re from Tucson Food Project and they’ve been crucial and our biggest. Jen and I were ready to give up because trying to find a nonprofit at the time we were doing it that was willing to take on a project wasn’t easy. I mean, they didn’t have anything, their resources were low. And so we were thrilled to find Tucson Food Project and it ended up being a perfect fit for us.

Well, that’s wonderful. I’m glad that you have connected in a Tucson Food Project I know a little bit about. So maybe we’ll have them. I’d like to get them on the show and dive more deeply into that particular mission. But for now, head over to their website, tucsonfoodproject.org. You can learn about them. But also cheers to Tucson. Get some tickets, go to a pool party, support our local community and then let’s see what happens in November and how lives are impacted. And this is just the beginning. So very bright future ahead. I’m excited.

Yeah. Thank you so much, Tom. I appreciate your time.

Thank you.

That is Jessica Johnson of Cheers for Tucson. She and Gen Wong created this program and it will be officially launching, although it’s available online right now through the Tucson Food project. But they’ll be doing a launch party at Hotel McCoy next Sunday. Can buy tickets, get access to the pools and drinks food. It should be a fun time. As I mentioned in the interview, we’ve heard many people talking about how cool the Hotel McCoy pool is and the pool parties that they throw seem to be quite entertaining. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to life along the streetcar in downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtown Radio.org.

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Well, cheers to Tucson episode number 217. Thank you for tuning in and listening and don’t go anywhere. We have Ted Prazelski words and work coming up. And at top of the hour, Ty Logan with heavy mental. Hopefully he caught the early morning today with Mr. Nature’s Little Leaf radio always a great way to start a Sunday morning and then it just moves right into DJ Bank, the musical bomb and the art of easing. And as I’ve said before, I think people just listen to his show and they’re just so involved with their easing, they just don’t even get up to change station. So for those of you listening, that just our carryovers from DJ Bank. I’m with you. Love his show too. Check out all of our shows on downtownradio.org. You’re going to find some really cool things happening throughout the week. Arizona 411 talking about all Arizona music,

we have a show called Radio Club Crawl. This one is fantastic. Brother Mock goes through and plays songs from the bands that are going to be playing live in venues across Tucson throughout the week. So if you’re not sure what to do, maybe over the weekend when you hear some music, tune into Radio Club Crawl, get a sense of what you like and he’s going to tell you where they’re playing, what time they’re playing. It’s a really good resource here in Tucson. If you like live music, if there’s anything you want us to cover on the show, you can tag us on Facebook or Instagram, that’s what we like best. Or you can email us contact@lifelongthestreetcar.org. Of course you can also just simply send us a little note there on our website, on the contact form as well. Next week we’ve got a couple of individuals from Arizona ford. This is the U of A program helping entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial minded individuals find their way in this world. The interview actually was so good. It’s going to be

a two parter, so you’ll hear part one next week and honor Jessica and Jennifer’s efforts here for cheers to Tucson. Going to leave you a little music today from Gary Portnoy. You might recognize this. It’s a theme tongue to a show in the 1980s of the same name. Cheers. Have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.

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