Arizona Republic
Oct. 31, 2007

Author: Produced by Chad Graham
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Gil Gillenwater and his business partners have made their millions in the Valley's real-estate game.
Their company, SDI, had the second-largest land sale in Arizona in 2006. It parted with 2,200 acres near Fountain Hills for $136 million.

Yet the company plans to close its doors once it sells three remaining investment properties.

"I've got all the money I need -- why go sit in an office?" asked Gillenwater, 53, a lifelong Arizona resident.

He will be traveling o Mexico to work at Rancho Feliz, the charity that he and his brother Troy started 20 years ago in the town of Agua Prieta, Sonora.

Many of the children and elderly they help were abandoned at the border as other family members crossed into the United States.

On Saturday, 200 volunteers will travel to the town to give Christmas presents to the children.

In all, the organization hosts more than 1,000 volunteers annually through its residence program.

They distribute food, build homes, repair schools and teach computer skills. Many are young adults from affluent areas of the Valley,

"I've traveled all over the world, and you have to literally go to India or Bangladesh to see some of the poverty that exists a mere four-hour drive from Scottsdale,"Gillenwater said. Rancho Feliz officials now are focused on education, paying $2,200 per year, each for 62 children to attend a private bilingual school. In all, 200 children receive scholarships.

"Let's provide them a place to live with dignity, to raise their families with dignity and educate their children with dignity," Gillenwater said. "The illegal migration issue will not end until we provide opportunity...for the poverty here in Mexico."

CAPTION: Gil Gillenwater (above) hugs Noehmi Rios, who has been with Rancho Feliz since being found at a shelter as a child. He joins another girl (top right) at a party for the children.
Edition:  Final Chaser
Section:  Business
Page:  D2
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Record Number:  pho177846880