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Mesa Sunshine Acres Maps Ambitious Plan

By Maria Polletta for The Arizona Republic

Sunshine Acres in Mesa has developed an expansion plan that would allow it to eventually care for 250 children, about 180 more than it serves today Photo Credit: David Kadlubowski/The Republic

A 100-plus-acre property, Sunshine Acres children’s home, at Higley Road and Loop 202, has been housing kids whose parents are homeless, ill, addicted to drugs or alcohol, in jail or otherwise unable to care for them since Jim and Vera Dingman bought the land in the early 1950s.

The children’s home has received so much unprompted support that it was moved to outline a development plan for ultimate build-out. The plan includes 25 children’s homes as well as additional private residences and “support facilities,” such as school and recreation buildings.

“For many, many years, it seemed like we had endless property. Then we started realizing we’re almost 50 percent developed on the land that we own. We’re not trying to create a capital project … but we need to be thoughtful and intentional about where we put things, because there’s electricity, sewage, water, Internet usage and infrastructure to take into account,” Sloan said.

Sloan said Sunshine Acres would be able to help about 250 children if the plan were implemented.

Though economic dips have periodically affected the organization’s income, Valley residents for decades have donated everything from cash to lawnmowers to houses.

General donations, including monthly contributions ranging from $25 to $3,000, make up about 80 percent of Sunshine Acres’ revenue, Sloan said. Estate gifts provide about half a million dollars or more each year.

Benefactors have funded infrastructure improvements, such as paved roadways and completion of the sewer system. Westerns actor Ben Johnson donated a barn. Blandford Homes is building a new house for girls. A partnership with Salt River Project, Arizona State University and Mesa allowed creation of a solar field.

Entire homes have been donated and moved onto the campus. A tennis court, skate park and playground have been constructed for the kids. People changing up their home or office decors have given Sunshine Acres furniture and decorations to spruce up its houses and office buildings.

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