One person off the street.

That was the modest goal for the first Circle the City Tea in 2005. Sister Adele, medical director at Healthcare for the Homeless, mentioned to a group of women from St. Theresa Parish that $10,000 a year would get a single individual into a home, and that became their fundraising target for the event.

Not sure what to expect, these Tea Ladies, led by Sandra Smith, gathered up donations of food, flowers, decorations, and even the tea, sent out the invitations, and waited. On the day of the Tea, 165 people showed up and $68,000 was raised.

That’s at least six people off the street.

Members of Sister Adele’s congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph, who had come up from Tucson to attend the Tea said that “something extraordinary” happened that day. Indeed. The capacity of Sister Adele’s legendary shoe box had grown exponentially, and it became clear that her message and her mission of ending homelessness could reach a much larger audience.

The Tea became an annual event.

A silent auction was added, and in the years since the Tea has grown to more than 500 attendees, with more than 100 volunteers coming together from all over the Valley to aid in the event’s success. During its 11-year history, the Tea has raised more than $800,000.

All thanks to the Tea Ladies.