Executive Update For You from Christine Conte

June 10, 2020

Dear Tohono Chul Family,

I truly hope this finds you well and caring gently for yourself and your family.

It has been 12 weeks since Tohono Chul closed to ensure the health and safety of staff, volunteers and visitors. And although it has often seemed overwhelming, writing these letters to you helps me reflect on the many things that are still right with the world.

In that light, the first thing I’d like to share with you today is a little story that made my day. It says a lot about what Tohono Chul is all about—it’s not just the beautiful place, it’s the beautiful people.

Over the weekend we received a desperate call from a neighbor. Dewey, his beloved Chihuahua (a rescue from HOPE animal shelter) had taken fright and disappeared. Could we please help? Tohono Chul staff did not hesitate for a moment. Jamie and Tracey searched the grounds with water and food (Jamie’s sandwich!) at the ready. The owner was allowed to come in to join the search. Everyone knew that if Dewey was within our 49-acre preserve, he had to be rescued before the coyotes or bobcats spotted him. Hope for his recovery was fading fast by Sunday evening. But on Monday morning Bryce caught sight of the skittish pup in the Succulent Garden as he again turned tail and ran off into the desert. Bryce called the owner who sprinted over to coax Dewey to safety and a joyous reunion.

What are the odds? Slim to none unless people are willing to rise to the challenge. Willing to be kind and caring. Willing to do their best to give hope where there is little to none. You and the people of Tohono Chul. Together creating hope and a brighter future, even in these dark times.

The future of Tohono Chul is far from certain while the pandemic holds sway, and we were certainly hoping to be much further along in getting it under control in Arizona and Pima County than we are to date. https://webcms.pima.gov

But here is what news and hope I have to share:

In order to fulfill our promise to safely reopen Tohono Chul, we will continue to carefully monitor the Pima County public health data according to the standards set for reopening by the CDC. With current data in hand, the soonest we anticipate reopening will be towards the end of June.

The federal Paycheck Protection Plan is allowing us to retain key staff who maintain and care for grounds and facilities, perform essential administrative functions in finance, philanthropy, marketing, education, volunteer services, propagation, retail and exhibits. I am proud of the patience, devotion, talent and creativity of this incredible group of hard-working people. Designed to provide some short-term support for staff and utilities, this funding will be entirely expended as required by July 6th.

Your gifts to the $150,000 Survive and Thrive matching fund established in March by a generous private foundation has grown to almost $170,000! These gifts surpass traditional spring giving nearly tenfold. I thank each of you personally for stepping up at a time when many of us were wondering whether Tohono Chul could survive the spring. We are not out of danger at this point. Financial scenarios vary, and further cuts may be necessary, but it appears that the combination of federal support and private gifts could take us into August.

And we will continue to need your generous support to keep moving forward. Our goal is to raise another $100,000 to ensure funding through August and possibly into September. If we are open and welcoming visitors this fall, October may be our first opportunity to begin generating anything close to normal revenue. Between now and then we are operating on a bare-bones budget in every department. We have cut any expense that is not absolutely necessary.

I cannot thank you enough for your encouragement, patience and very generous support. As overwhelming as the pandemic has been—your devotion and kindness bring a sense of deep gratitude and calm assurance that all will be well.

Warm regards,

Christine Conte, PhD

Executive Director