Michael Levy, 53, is the president of the board of the B'nai B'rith Covenant House, located at 4414 E. Second St. On Thursday, April 21, the board will celebrate a decade of existence, and dedicate a new wellness center for the house's residents; the center was funded by a grant from the city of Tucson, with equipment donated by Mel and Enid Zuckerman. In his day job, Levy is a second vice president of investments and portfolio manager for Smith Barney. But we're talking to him about his volunteer work. In his words: "The (Covenant House) board's job is to provide programming, and go above and beyond what HUD provides, to enhance the lives of the residents, with parties and learning opportunities, and (amenities) like the library and the learning center." For more information, call the Covenant House at 327-2200.

Give me the Cliff's Notes on the B'nai B'rith Covenant House.

It's a government-sponsored senior housing project that's sponsored by B'nai B'rith and funded by (the Department of Housing and Urban Development). It provides a safe, high-quality living environment for those with low and very-low incomes who qualify. It happens to be, at this point in time, the nicest facility like this in Tucson.

And even though it's sponsored by B'nai B'rith (an international Jewish organization), it's nondenominational?

Yes, absolutely. The only qualifications are the income and age requirements, and you have to be self-sufficient. It's not what you'd call assisted living.

Tell me about what's happening on April 21.

It's a celebration of 10 years of the house being open. It's a celebration of those residents who have been there from the beginning. It's just a little ceremony, an open house for friends of the Covenant House. ... It's also a kick-off celebrating the opening of the wellness center. It gives us a chance to recognize Mel and Enid Zuckerman (the Canyon Ranch founders) for the very nice gift they gave.

How many residents have been here the entire 10 years?


What's the significance of 10 years?

We take a lot of pride in the house. Look at it--it looks brand new. It's something we're very proud of, and something nobody knows about: It's an unknown treasure, and we want to celebrate it. The wellness center is such a valuable thing. We thought getting together to celebrate would be nice for the people ... to recognize our accomplishments. Maybe it's that we've survived all the government cuts.

Have cuts affected the Covenant House at all?

No, they haven't.

You're lucky.

Yeah, exactly. It's sort of hard to throw the destitute onto the street. Well, I don't know if the residents are destitute, but they'd have no place to go.

How many residents are there?

124, in 119 apartments.

How do people apply for a spot in the house?

I think people in the situation of not being able to afford housing ... know there are programs, and there are other houses out there. ... We have a wait list of 38; that shows a pretty substantial desire to get into the house.

What made you decide to get involved with the Covenant House?

At one time, I pulled back a little bit on the amount of volunteer work I was doing; I had three kids at that time under 11 or 12. It was more difficult for me to volunteer time away from my family. When I got ready to get more involved again ... Mort Friedman was the president, and I met with him. ... B'nai B'rith, for some reason, is very weighted with elderly volunteers, and they were looking for younger people to make a difference, and I felt I could help out. Now, here I am, as the board president. It just felt right; I enjoy it more that I can express.

I understand you have a past with the Weekly, too.

Yes, I do.

What did you do?

Doug Biggers, the previous owner, approached me about helping. I had a reputation in town ... of helping companies to run within a process and a culture, and an ability to drive revenue. That was my specialty ... .

Do you miss the media at all?

I miss the people I worked with. But I am very happy and love what I do now.

Anything to add?

I really appreciate the dedicated volunteers on the board. Everyone cares about the community and cares about the residents. ... There's no prestige on the board other than trying to fulfill our mission.

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