By John Hernandez
Copper Area News Publishers
SaddleBrooke Community Outreach has been making an impact on the lives of thousands of needy children for the last 15 years. Their programs provide support for children in communities throughout the Copper Corridor area, from Catalina to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. The 100 mile service area includes the communities of San Manuel, Mammoth, Oracle, Winkelman, Kearny and Superior. Their programs include Kids’ Closet, Teen Closet, Tutoring, College Scholarships, Enrichment Programs, Holiday Food Baskets & Adopt a Family, Back Pack/School Supplies and they support the Tri-Community Food Bank. SaddleBrooke Community Outreach is run entirely by volunteers. Two of these volunteers are Nan Nasser and Ken Sharkowicz.
Ken Sharkowicz is originally from Rome, New York where he worked as a civil servant for the Air Force for 37 years. Ken was a Technical Program Manager. He joined SaddleBrooke Community Outreach in 1999. He was one of the first men to join the group. Ken is an advisor to the Board. He organizes the fundraisers such as the Walkathon and Home Tours. The Health Fair he helps organize brings in 70 medical agencies and provides free medical screening for people in the area. Ken also helps provide transportation for people to doctor’s appointments and to pick up prescriptions. He also designed the brochure used by SaddleBrooke Community Outreach.
Ken started volunteering at a young age. He said his father was a good role model, volunteering over 40,000 hours for a hospital. “I get great satisfaction out of providing for the kids in our service area and working with hundreds of nice people,” he said. He believes that people should volunteer because everybody at some point in their life is fragile. “I was one of them,” he said. “There is always somebody who needs something from older people in SaddleBrooke to kids in the community whose families are going through hard times. I have the knowledge and skills and can put them to use to help somebody else.”
Nan Nasser moved to Arizona from New Jersey. She did clerical work in a school system. She was a Girl Scout leader for 13 years and volunteered at the school. Nan volunteers because she likes it and believes kids are the future. “We see the good we can do by getting involved with kids,” she said.
Nan told the story of how the Kids’ Closet got started.
Dorothy Stefano had a daughter Laurie who worked at the school in San Manuel. She would tell them about kids that were having to share clothes with their siblings and that some of these kids would not go to school because some days they did not have nice clothes to wear. Some of the women in SaddleBrooke began researching what was needed and what organization was meeting the needs. They found out no one was providing the needed service to the area. The ladies began collecting used clothing. They took enough clothes to the school in San Manuel to provide 325 kids with clothing. The next day every kid was at school. The Kids’ Closet now provides new clothing for needy kids in eight school districts and 20 schools.
Nan believes that volunteering provides health benefits. The many volunteers that live in SaddleBrooke keep active and say they feel better when they are volunteering. Nan said, “There is more to life than tennis and bridge. Our lives have been good and now it’s time to help somebody else.”