Saddlebrooke Community Outreach, Inc. (SBCO) was founded in the fall of 1996 as a nonprofit organization run solely by 435 volunteer members living in the Saddlebrooke retirement community. The mission of SBCO is to make a positive and lasing impact on the quality of life of schoolchildren in impoverished neighboring communities by helping them gain self-respect, making possible improved attendance at school, helping induce a strong desire for education and changing the cycle of poverty.
SBCO is dedicated to working with poor families, and there is a special emphasis on the children. They have no paid staff and no overhead. Six percent of the 2001 income was used for administrative costs and was paid from fundraising efforts. All grants received from foundation and corporations are used 100 percent for programs with no deductions of any kind. SBCO addresses the community needs of education, literacy and workplace skills, impoverished communities and minorities in and rural community.
Saddlebrooke is a rural community that used to exist around thriving mines. It is now a depressing area full of poverty with little relief in site. The children are not motivated and very disinterested; they see no reason to set goals or to hope for anything for the future. Initial research, coordinated with community service agencies revealed that the need for appropriate clothing in rural, mountain, and poverty-stricken towns is a great need. Many of the children do not have warm jackets or shoes that fit. They do not have underwear or socks. They are either too cold or embarrassed to go to school.
Because of this, one of the first projects for SBCO and a major ongoing program is a clothing bank called Kid’s Closet. Annually SBCO provides new winter and summer clothes for about 1,200 eligible children. A simple thing like a clothing bank has actually improved attendance in the community. To participate in the Kid’s Closet program, children in Head Start through 8th grade must be eligible for federal free or reduced price school lunch program. The San Manuel School District provides a rent-free room in Mammoth Elementary School for the Kid’s Closet. The room is set up as a department store, opens three times a week and gives the children a realistic shopping experience for their new clothes. The volunteers work one-on-one with the children in the absence of parents or teachers. This ensures the children will select the colors and styles they like, and the children get special personal time with an adult.
The impact of the operation is difficult to measure with precision. However, SBCO receives positive feedback from students, teachers, principals and parents supporting their efforts and letting them know they have made tangible improvements in the lives of the children.