A Kiwanis club in Arizona, U.S., invited the community to help mark a fundraising anniversary. 

By Tony Knoderer 

The Kiwanis Club of Carefree, Arizona, U.S., celebrated the ninth anniversary of its Kiwanis Marketplace with local business leaders on August 10. Located in the nearby town of Cave Creek, the Marketplace was the site of an event that the club cohosted with the Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce, which invited local business leaders to join the anniversary celebration. 

Kiwanis Marketplace itself is nine years old, but the Carefree Kiwanis Club has been raising funds by giving locals a place to shop, donate and volunteer for more than four decades. The idea originated in the early 1980s, when the club started fundraising with garage sales.  

“It actually started out in a two-car garage,” says Geno Orrico, a longtime club member, past president and current volunteer. 

The garage sales were a hit — so much so that the club was able to award its first scholarship in 1986 for US$500. 

Realizing the potential of these sales, the club struck a deal with the Town of Carefree in 1999 to build a 3,000-square-foot, US$100,000 building on town land with a 20-year lease.  

According to Alex Perez, general manager of Kiwanis Marketplace, the club eventually started raising money to buy land and build a new location. More than US$1.2 million had been raised, he says, when the perfect 18,000-square-foot building became available. The club purchased the building and opened what is now the Kiwanis Marketplace. 

“When it first started, there were zero employees and about 150 volunteers,” Perez says. “It was open four days a week for four hours a day, and it made just under a million dollars. Then it grew and grew — and now today there are 14 employees and around 100 volunteers that come and help. Last year we did over US$2.25 million in sales.” 

Orrico adds that many volunteers have been around since the beginning.  

“It gives you a sense of giving back to the community, and I think that goes for all the volunteers — they feel a sense of self-worth,” he says. “We also have some folks that come here every single day to see what treasures they can get.” 

Thanks to the funds from Kiwanis Marketplace, the Kiwanis Club of Carefree donated more than US$1.2 million last year, sponsoring local school programs, projects such as Family Fun Days at the Cave Creek Museum and renovations at Desert Foothills YMCA. The club has also given US$500,000 to the Kiwanis Scholarship Program in 2023.