It Takes A Village: Suns, TSRA & Levy Restaurants Assisting In Time Of Need
Cuisine is a key element to almost every sports and entertainment event and that’s no different at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Every gameday concert and event at TSRA is packed with amusement, hospitality and, of course, food. But with the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19, the building has limited operations due to cancellations and postponements and the NBA season is suspended, yet the shelves were still full.
With no clear-cut return date at this point, the Phoenix Suns, Talking Stick Resort Arena and restaurant and hospitality partner Levy Restaurants are striving to add a silver lining to the rising economic struggles around them as they reach out to help those in need with the abundance of supplies they have stocked up.
“We’ve heard from so many in our community that one of the main basics needed during this uncertain time is food,” said Suns Vice President of Social Responsibility and Executive Director of Phoenix Suns Charities Sarah Krahenbuhl. “We want to ensure we are doing what we can to assist in those efforts.”
Maria Brunner, Founder of local nonprofit Musically Fed, has been relying on donations from the downtown arena for assistance throughout the past five years. Following games, concerts and events, Levy would donate any excess food for Brunner to then distribute from within her own organization.
Musically fed is a Scottsdale-based organization who work with artists, promoters, management, and venues nationwide to donate unused, backstage meals and kitchen supplies to community organizations comprised of at least 50% veterans and who focus on feeding the homeless, hungry, and food insecure.
However, in this time of great need, organizations such as Musically Fed that are striving to help others are watching their shelves empty as the demand increases, but the donations decrease.
“I think it's the most important time to give back than ever,” Brunner said. “People are without food. Food banks aren't getting what they need to get because the restaurants aren't open. Supplies, they're gone, they're limited. We don't even know when this is going to come back.”
As economic struggles continue to escalate, the needs for food banks and supplies continues to be on the rise. Levy and General Manager of Purchasing, Ray Ferazani, are stepping into center court.
“A week ago, Mitch [Katz] and I reached out to Ray and said, ‘I think things are going to shut down. Ray, keep us in mind if you have to let loose of anything,” Brunner said.
Brunner and Katz were unsure of the response, but knew the struggle for donations were worsening and took their shot. What began as a small pickup last Thursday was just the beginning.
“I thought when I came out here last Thursday that that was it,” Brunner said. “We loaded up half a semi. Then it became, ‘What are you doing on Saturday and Sunday?’ Then it was, 'Hey, we have stuff on Thursday.' Yesterday I sent a half of semi down here and they loaded up. Today, it's going to be a semi and my vehicle.”
Fast-forward just one week and Levy has tallied an abundance of donation as they continue to transfer supplies.
“This is our sixth pick-up,” Brunner said. “We have served eight partners. I think we have picked up over 6,000 pounds. We've done at least a couple thousand meals.”
For Levy Restaurant’s Director of Operations at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, Ty Bittner, this was not only an easy decision, but a necessary one as his company reaches out to the community around them.
“Given the current environment and a postponement of the NBA season, we have plenty of product,” Bittner said. “We're just trying to do the right thing and we're going to donate this product to Musically Fed, which they will in turn distribute to those in need.”
With so many impacted by COVID-19’s effects, the food donated will be able to help those who have lost their jobs, struggling to find food and overall bring a little solace in these trying times.
“This is what we need to see,” Brunner said. “This is what it's truly all about. Them taking the time during this really upheaval time that we're going through to think of others, to work with us so that we can make this happen.”
This not only means the world to Brunner because of the good deeds her organization is able to provide now thanks to the Suns, TSRA and Levy, but also because she knows so many effected by the recent downturn and in need of support.
“I work in the entertainment industry and we pretty much lost our shirt this last week,” Brunner said. “So, many of my friends, my cohorts, they're going to be part of this. They're going to be part of the beneficiary because they're going to be going to these agencies to get the food. So, the fact that Levy and the arena would stay on top of this continually, I can’t say enough.”
The Phoenix Suns are proud to have a partner that is not only committed to the organization, but to the people who support the team and the entirety of the community around them.
“We are so proud to be working with all of our partners, like Levy, to help support community efforts in their own unique ways,” Krahenbuhl said.
As the donations continue to be loaded up and distributed throughout The Valley, Brunner’s hope is that other’s will see the impact of the outreach and philanthropy and be inspired to assist in their own capacity.
“Maybe it will spur other people into thinking their restaurants that have food at the end of the night that hasn't been touched, can be packaged. We need to know about that because we'll do the heavy lifting. We have our food handlers permit, we know what to do.”