Scottsdale-based nonprofit builds dorm to house volunteers in Mexico

Rancho Feliz will break ground Saturday, April 14, on the La Hacienda Feliz volunteer dormitory in Agua Prieta, Mexico. (Submitted rendering)

Rancho Feliz, a nonprofit based in Scottsdale, is breaking ground on La Hacienda Feliz, a $1.35 million, 20-room, 10,215-square-foot dorm in Agua Prieta, Mexico to house up to 70 volunteers who provide services to residents of the area.

“Rancho Feliz’s mission is to change the world by changing consciousness. We are eliminating the divisional concepts that separate us,” Gil Gillenwater, founder and president, stated in a release. “We are thrilled to break ground on our new dorm, which will foster cross-cultural service experiences and connections by enabling us to house U.S. and Mexican volunteers at the same time.”

The single-story dorm, which is expected to accommodate 1,500 volunteer visits a year, will feature an industrial kitchen, dining hall for up to 80, industrial laundry room, arts and crafts room, small gift shop for local crafts and a shrine/meditation room, the release stated.

There will be two female dorm rooms, two male dorm rooms and six private chaperone rooms. Additional structures include a caretaker’s residence where a local couple will live all year, workshop, tool storage and green house.

In addition, the 1.7-acre site will feature a garden, orchard, 34 on-site car parking spaces, two on-site bus parking spaces, landscaped courtyard, an artistic mural and open space for future development. Agua Prieta is located across the Mexican border from Douglas, approximately 230 miles south of Phoenix.

Rancho Feliz has outgrown its existing nearby 4,000-square-foot, 11-roomed dorm as its 20-year-old exchange program has hosted more than 22,000 volunteer visits, according to the release.

Volunteers have built more than 800 homes housing 3,200 displaced people, distributed more than 355 tons of food providing 4.1 million meals to the hungry, funded hundreds of grade school, high school and university scholarships, cared for abandoned children and seniors and forged a bridge of respect and friendship between the U.S. and Mexico, according to the release.

“Americans need this cross-cultural experience now more than ever,” Gillenwater stated. “Our volunteers feed their souls with purpose and also gain an appreciation of the good fortunes in their lives.”

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