Summer in Arizona is the deadliest time of the year. With temperatures regularly hovering between 110 and 115 degrees, the homeless are particularly vulnerable, especially when they lack access to drinking water.

According to the Phoenix Rescue Mission, an average of 118 people die every year from excessive heat, with 95 percent of those deaths occurring between May and September. Many of the victims are homeless. The Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Code:Red Summer Heat Relief initiative supplies the homeless with resources to survive the blazing heat.

Assessing this need four years ago, the Phoenix law firm Jaburg|Wilk, led by Valley Jewish resident Mervyn Braude, a partner and the community committee chairperson at the firm, launched an alliance with the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Code:Red campaign to donate bottled water to the homeless.

The first year, Jaburg|Wilk donated about 2,000 bottles of water. Last summer, that number had grown to more than 17,000 bottles.

“As to our motivation and connection to faith, there are 613 mitzvot,” Braude said, “and at least 20 of the mitzvot are directly linked to assisting those who are less fortunate and in need of help. It is satisfying to be able to help others and simultaneously comply with the mitzvot that are central to our Jewish faith.”

Jaburg|Wilk initially began its partnership with the Phoenix Rescue Mission in 2014 by serving meals. In 2015, the Mission reached out to the law firm and asked for its help during the summer water campaign.

“When they explained their need — and how they distribute the water — it was an easy cause for us to adopt,” said Brenda Edwards, executive director at Jaburg|Wilk and a member of the community committee.

The law firm has a variety of ways to raise money for its bottled water campaign, Edwards said. One effort is the Jeans for Charity program. One Friday each month, employees donate $5 to wear jeans to work. Also, the employee of the month selects a charity to provide funds to and several selected the Phoenix Rescue Mission. The water drive is now part of Jaburg|Wilk’s annual charity calendar and there is an annual water drive campaign for which employees raise funds that are matched by the firm.

“It’s because of partners like Jaburg|Wilk that our Code:Red Summer Heat Relief campaign has been so successful and has been able to expand as a Valley-wide effort,” said Jay A. Cory, president and CEO of Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“For the past four years,” Cory added, “their employees have stepped up and championed our heat-relief campaign with water drives, donations and volunteer support, ensuring our community’s at-risk populations have enough water to survive the triple-digit temperatures. We couldn’t continue Code:Red without the help of our partners like Jaburg|Wilk.”

The law firm’s philanthropic efforts extend beyond the water drive. In 2015, it also began supporting Catholic Family Charities’ refugee program hygiene drive. Firm employees have collected hygiene products and raised money to purchase diapers and other items. Once again, the firm matches its employee donations.

“Our contribution delivers essential personal hygiene products, which are not included in the substance allowance that refugees receive, that are important to maintain a reasonable quality of life,” Edwards said. “One of the great aspects of this program is that hygiene products allow the refugees to jump-start their ability to obtain jobs. We are continuing with this program in 2018.”

Meanwhile, as temperatures continue to soar, the focus for Jaburg|Wilk and the Phoenix Rescue Mission remains providing water to the vulnerable. Edwards anticipates that its bottled water donation will begin this week. The water bottles are handed out by Phoenix Rescue Mission volunteers.

“It’s nice to know that Jaburg|Wilk stands with us, and our hope is that others see their generosity and join the effort,” Cory said. “No one in our community should ever die because they can’t afford a simple bottle of water.” JN

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