The Rancho Feliz Foundation serves those in need from Scottsdale to Sonora

The Rancho Feliz Foundation has built over $10 million in homes, education centers, orphanages and child care centers since its inception in Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

An idea born within the bounds of Scottsdale’s community continues to have far-reaching impacts in service to those in need — both domestically and south of the border.

The Rancho Feliz Foundation was founded in 1987 by Scottsdale resident Gil Gillenwater in an effort to help locals “feed their souls by serving the less fortunate.”

Since that time, Rancho Feliz has emerged into a Scottsdale charity with a dual mission.

“Rancho Feliz has built over $10 million in homes, education centers, orphanages and child care centers,” said Powell Gillenwater III. “The foundation has also provided over 2,000 scholarships. The current focus is education here and in Agua Prieta, Mexico located across the Mexican border from Douglas, which is approximately 230 miles south of Phoenix.”

Powell Gillenwater II of the Rancho Feliz Foundation

The Scottsdale Charros are providing a $3,000 grant to help fuel the Return to Reality effort where Rancho Feliz volunteers built a barrio-style shelter for a family in need in Agua Prieta, which is in the Sonora state of Mexico.

“This family is living in a hovel made of wood shipping pallets and cardboard with dirt floors, no running water or electricity,” Mr. Gillenwater said prior to the effort. “To apply for a new home a family must own their own piece of land, keep their kids in school, maintain a job, and not be involved with drugs or the cartel and help build he home.”

For 58 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

A view of a home built by the Rancho Feliz Foundation, which is based in Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

For Scottsdale Charro Dan Postal, the effort is personal.

“My wife and I learned about Rancho Feliz firsthand when we took our two boys on a trip with a dozen other families, Gill and his team to build homes for several families in Agua Prieta,” he said of his first encounter.

“It was an amazing experience to watch our boys work side-by-side with the families whose homes were being built. Together we laid foundation and built walls. In just a few days the homes were nearly complete and the gratitude from the families is something you can never forget. At the end of each day we sat around with our kids and talked about our experiences and what we learned. It was clear that our families received more than the families that we were there to help.”

Mr. Postal serves as a sponsor for The Charro Foundation grant application — something he is proud to provide.

“We are all in this together and have a connection with each other,” he said. “When we help others we are also helping ourselves and Rancho Feliz has created an opportunity to grow through the service of others.”

The United States of America — with Scottsdale being no exception — is the greatest and most economically developed country ever to emerge atop planet Earth, which Mr. Postal, says can change perspectives.

“Living here it is easy to take for granted the privileges that we have and how easy our lives are compared to many others,” he said of his personal realization. “It was eye-opening to see how happy the people were with so few material possessions. Each of the families had so much pride and worked alongside of us every day. Those that had previously had homes built for them continued to help their neighbors.”

— Dan Postal of the Scottsdale Charros

Although helping those in need south of the border is a priority for the Rancho Feliz effort, Mr. Postal also points out the impacts of the outfit here locally.

“It’s about learning for those of us on both sides of the border. Rancho Feliz has many various scholarship and learning programs that provide educational opportunities to qualifying children in Agua Prieta from 40-days old up through university,” he explained.

“Equally as important, they provide on-border volunteer opportunities to those of us living in the United States. Under this program 1,000-plus volunteers a year including many young adults, travel to the border to help the less fortunate.”

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Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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