By Barry Barbe

When you grow up with a mother who fostered 56 babies over her lifetime, many from birth, the caregiving gene is either inherited or learned through observation and appreciation.

For Karen Mayborg Scherpeberg, the act of giving and caring for others is simply something you do. “I have wonderful stories of my parents, and even grandparents taking care of those in need in our community, whether they knew them or not,” Karen said.

“My grandfather used to bring homeless men off the railroad tracks, then referred to as hobos, and into their home feeding them a hot meal and offering a warm respite. These were guys that literally had nothing, and nowhere to turn to for help in those days.”

Growing up in St. Bernard, Ohio, a small community near Cincinnati, which Karen refers to as “Mayberry,” the Midwest values and community were truly unique in that, “whenever I needed anything, I knew who to ask to help me with any fundraiser or project I might have been running at the time. And no one ever said no,” Karen added.

Over the years, Karen organized too many fundraisers and events to remember.<br />

“I used to literally drag my young boys into nursing homes on Sundays to visit residents. We were also very committed to Special Olympics. We would follow the team all year long, shuttling them to events and staying with them overnight for days at a time while they were competing,” Karen said.

Karen’s partner in life and crime, Steve, has been by her side for 44 years. They both share a passion for caring for others selflessly.

“It’s been a really rewarding life,” Karen said.

After retiring from a successful career with the Department of Transportation, Karen and her husband made good on their goal of moving to a warmer climate. Steve, now a fire chief, came home to announce he had a calling. He had applied for a position, and two days later a job offer with Habitat for Humanity in Phoenix made the decision final.

“Steve came home and said he had applied for a construction manager position for Habitat for Humanity. Two weeks later we were in Arizona,” Karen said.

Steve spent 8-1/2 years with Habitat, and Karen worked five years at the Habitat ReStore in a variety of positions.

Now settled in Prescott for the past five years, Karen’s retirement is anything but idle. As with many retirees in the Prescott area, Karen is busier than ever. Working part time as a hostess, Karen is a joyful force to be reckoned with. With enough personality for two people and energy for three, Karen fills her time helping others and encouraging others to do the same through example.

Whether mentoring a teenage boy with a single mom, providing meals to neighbors in need, or recruiting others to help in her escapades, Karen and Steve exhibit the best of community. There’s a certain Pied Piper personality about her.

The couple’s current passion project is volunteering at Prescott Area Shelter Services, which offers services to women and children. Steve works as the shelter handyman and Karen hosts weekly activity nights for residents.

“I love having the opportunity to get to know and help these families,” Karen said.

The mother of three grown boys, Karen’s commitment to caring for others is infectious.

Kassandra York, with Bottled Blond Salon, is only one individual Karen introduced to the shelter. Kassandra joins Karen at the shelter offering complimentary hair cuts to residents during her weekly events. Karen also recruits her other co-workers into helping with whatever project she may have going on at the time.

An unrepentant advocate for PASS, Karen says, “All I ask is that you visit once to see what we do. Once they visit, they find something to do and start helping. Everyone has an opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Karen says.

Whether delivering hot meals, organizing clothing drives, helping with Operation Deep Freeze, or running Karaoke nights, Karen’s commitment to others knows no limit.

“I just love what I do. It is so rewarding seeing these families that are down on their good fortune, smile and have a good time.”

’Tis the season of giving, and for Karen and Steve, it’s year ’round.

For more information on Prescott Area Shelter Services, visit prescottshelters.org.

Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. His radio show, the Prescott Palette, is on KQNA 1130 AM, Saturdays at noon. Email: Prespalette@gmail.com.

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