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Local Heroes

Our annual tribute to citizens who make Tucson a better place

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W. Mark Clark

He led the charge to keep Tucson's only public, accredited social-work college alive

W. Mark Clark - JANELLE MONTENEGRO

"In bad times," says W. Mark Clark, president and CEO of CODAC Behavioral Health Services, "substance-abuse disorders, anxiety, depression and situational stress increase. These times bring out the unfortunate in people."

Economic hardship means more people and families are in need, and more people are qualifying for both financial aid and Medicaid. All of that increases government and nonprofit agencies' need for qualified social workers. But there aren't enough social workers in the best of times, owing to the overwhelming workloads and comparatively low salaries in the field.

If it weren't for Clark, Tucson might have had even fewer social workers in the future.

With active collaboration from Tucson's social-services community, Clark led this year's successful effort to rescue the Tucson Component of the Arizona State University School of Social Work. It's the only institution of its kind serving Southern Arizona, and it faced closure last winter when the state Legislature imposed draconian budget cuts on higher education.

Clark has been in charge of CODAC for the past decade, but he also worked there in the early 1980s. In 1984, he founded the agency's Stratford Center methadone treatment program. In between, he served six years each as the local and the national president/CEO of Travelers Aid International. A recent fellow at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business Center for Social Innovation, Clark serves the Tucson Component as both a faculty associate and a field instructor.

The Tucson Component, established in 1978, offers both the only public, accredited, undergraduate program, and the only graduate degree program for social work in Southern Arizona. Its graduates tend to come from the Tucson community and often stay and work in the community.

"Most of the students are not traditional college students," Clark says. "They may have been recipients (of services) themselves and decided to go back and get their degrees. That's true of the graduate program as well. They have life experience."

Graduates also have experience with Tucson agencies and their special populations. "All social-work students, graduate and undergraduate students, have to do practicums, so as part of their preparation, they learn our agencies' services," Clark says.

"The challenge is that social-work education is expensive," he explains. "The accrediting body has pretty strict faculty-to-student ratios. ... I think they (ASU) decided they were going to close everything that wasn't located on the main campus or (in) downtown (Phoenix)."

Clark stresses that keeping the school alive was "very much a collective effort." He cites the community organizing work of the Tucson Component's founder, Ann Nichols, who retired in August. "I just sort of did a little coordination, and some of the front work," Clark says, modestly, "and had a few connections that we were able to utilize."

Clark's front work and connections turned out to be crucial. He persuaded the National Association of Social Workers, through its Arizona Chapter, to mobilize a letter-writing campaign. But most important were his personal conversations with ASU President Michael M. Crow and others who would make the final decision. Clark was ideally positioned for that role, based on the trust he'd earned as a member of the Dean's Advisory Council for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

"What we heard was that they got more communication from us than they did from any of the other programs," Clark says.

It worked, and the Tucson Component escaped the knife.

"If we want to have a qualified workforce for health and services—a qualified social work workforce—it was imperative that we have the program here," he says.

Linda Ray

mailbag@tucsonweekly.com


Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa

They've spent the past three decades offering hope to political prisoners

Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa - FARREN HALCOVICH

Felice Cohen-Joppa and her husband, Jack, both became activists at a very young age—as pre-teens, actually.

Felice took her first stand for justice when she wrote an anti-war article for her middle school newspaper; it was published despite her principal's initial refusal to print it. Middle-schooler Jack got his start doing pledge walks to raise money to fight hunger and poverty.

In college, Felice and Jack were in different states, but on the same anti-nuclear trajectory. They attended demonstrations, went to meetings and engaged in civil disobedience. Felice leafleted, organized teach-ins and attended conferences. Jack started writing letters to people in prison.

Why do we put people in cages? Jack wondered. Is locking people up and brutalizing them—psychically, emotionally and physically—the best way to reduce crime? Jack realized that all of our country's significant movements for social change have involved people being imprisoned, and he felt that supporting those people would be vital to any social movement's success.

And he says he realized that, "Gosh, there really isn't liberty and justice for all."

In 1980, Jack and Felice collided and joined forces, starting The Newsletter of the National No-Nukes Prison Support Collective, now known as the Nuclear Resister (with the subtitle "A Chronicle of Hope" printed on every edition). In 1986, the couple moved to Tucson—on the same day Chernobyl blew up in Russia.

"That seemed auspicious," Jack recalls.

Maybe it was: For nearly 30 years now, the Nuclear Resister has dispensed information and support for imprisoned anti-nuclear and anti-war activists, and currently has about 1,000 subscribers worldwide. It has told the story of more than 100,000 anti-war and anti-nuke arrests in the United States, plus thousands more abroad. It's provided support to imprisoned activists facing terms from two weeks to 18 years—from war-tax resisters to conscientious objectors to disarmament activists who've personally dismantled weapons of mass destruction with household hammers.

Not only are Jack and Felice reporting on and supporting nonviolent civil disobedience against injustice—they're still engaging in it. Last month, they joined more than 150 others rallying against torture in Sierra Vista, marching to the main gate of Fort Huachuca and the office of CACI, a private military contractor implicated in the abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Jack and Felice attend monthly vigils at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base—not to protest the troops, but to show concern over unmanned aerial vehicles in the Middle East that they say are killing many more civilians than enemies. They also gather outside Raytheon Missile Systems—not to protest the hard-working citizens employed there, but to oppose war and the people who make a financial killing off of it.

"When I stand outside of these places with a peace placard," says Felice, "I feel like I'm standing there for the many nameless, innocent victims of war. As a mother of two children, I'm mindful that I'm being present particularly for the women and children who are being affected by these wars."

But Felice doesn't shy away from supporting male activists, too—in fact, she's perhaps most famous as the coordinator of the U.S. campaign to free Mordechai Vanunu, the nuclear technician turned whistleblower who gave the world the first concrete proof that Israel had nuclear weapons.

One of Felice's favorite quotes comes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

"'We must learn to live together as brothers—and sisters—or perish together as fools.' I hold on to a lot of faith and hope that many concerned and persistent people will create the change we need to see in the world. We've certainly got to try. There's something all of us can do."

Check out the Nuclear Resister online at nuclearresister.org.

Anna Mirocha

mailbag@tucsonweekly.com


John Corrin

He levels the playing field for visually and cognitively impaired students by teaching them music

The members of the band "Out of Sight" from left to right: John Corrin, Clara Deitz, Cindy Garfio, Walter Atayde, Selina Gonzalez, Jaron Dalton and Brigette McIntyre. - FARREN HALCOVICH
  • Farren Halcovich
  • The members of the band "Out of Sight" from left to right: John Corrin, Clara Deitz, Cindy Garfio, Walter Atayde, Selina Gonzalez, Jaron Dalton and Brigette McIntyre.

John Corrin's enchanting little room at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and the Blind in Tucson is thick with music's physical trappings. Iconic posters line the walls; there's John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. High shelves are populated with a potpourri of instruments, and a Gold Tone banjo hangs on a hook, above a column of gleaming Fender guitars. A nest of wires runs underfoot, snaking to amps or electric pianos or foam-covered microphones.

But in this room, looks aren't everything. Most of the kids studying here can't relish the décor in its eclectic detail. To them, sound is key. And what a sound it is. Under Corrin's gentle hand, the school's visually and cognitively impaired students have learned that through music, they can truly soar.

Corrin himself knows what it's like to break that barrier. A childhood accident left him with slight cerebral palsy. Fortuitously, his mother provided him a guitar to help with coordination, and he discovered the confidence drawn from the strum of a string or a full-bodied voice.

For 14 years, he's been passing that message along to students such as those gathered here today, in rehearsal for their annual holiday benefit concert with the Sons of Orpheus choir. The room is rollicking, with Brigette McIntyre, Cindy Garfio and Selina Gonzalez harmonizing, while Walter Atayde heats up the drums. Jaron Dalton and Clara Deitz hit the keyboards as the group glides through Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride." Corrin himself plays a Fender Stratocaster guitar.

In between takes, McIntyre smiles at hitting the high notes, feeling worthy because of it.

"Music is something I can excel at, something I feel really good about," she says. "It's just something I like to do when I'm having a bad day. It cheers me up." There are nods around the room; everybody here can relate.

Then Clara strikes a chord on the piano, and they're ready for the next song.

While students such as McIntyre are natural with music, others are not. Corrin must gauge senses of rhythm, the ability to sing and memorize lyrics, and basic motor skills. Once they settle on an instrument or song they want to sing, he translates the music into large-print Braille and audio.

He works hard to fit students on a broad scale. Even the severely handicapped have a spot: "With those who are cognitively disabled and really can't play music, I expose them to a lot of different styles of recorded music," Corrin says. "These are some of the students who are going to have to have caregivers pretty much all of their waking lives. And the more music they can get enjoyment from, the more independent they can be."

Two hours have gone by, and class is wrapping up. After putting away the remaining instruments, Corrin plays a CD on which a boy with extreme cognitive disabilities is singing a Doors song. On another track, an equally disabled kid belts out Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street." The voices bear a sweet, yearning passion, and they're in nearly perfect pitch.

Corrin says there's a trick to bringing these kids out. "I try to set them up so that the first few things they attempt musically, they're successful at it—like helping them select a song to sing that's fairly easy. Then they get more confident, and a lot of times, that confidence rolls over into other aspects of their lives.

"When you're blind, sometimes it's hard to develop a social life," he says. "It can be difficult to meet new people. But when you're a musician, you can do the same thing that a sighted person does. And there aren't many things that holds true for. Music is an equal playing field, and it allows them opportunities to develop a social network."

He pauses the CD player and gazes around the room. "This is something that I've given to the kids that they can hopefully take forward into their lives," he says. "And that gives my life more meaning."

Tim Vanderpool

tvanderpool@tucsonweekly.com


Barbara Elfbrandt

She protected constitutional freedoms by standing up against a Red Scare-motivated law

Barbara Elfbrandt - JANELLE MONTENEGRO

The courageous five-year stand Barbara Elfbrandt took almost a half-century ago still resonates today.

In 1961, the state Legislature approved the Arizona Communist Control Act, which prohibited public employees from becoming members of the Communist Party. Even though the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunt era had ended, Elfbrandt recalls: "The fallout from the Red Scare was still around."

The law also banned membership in unnamed "other organizations dedicated to overthrowing the state government." Public employees were required to sign a loyalty oath pledging that they wouldn't join these groups—a mandate Elfbrandt refused to accept.

While media attention on Elfbrandt focused on her religious beliefs as a Quaker, she indicates that her religion wasn't a major factor.

"I was deeply involved in the local peace and civil-rights movements," Elfbrandt explains, "and my reading of the legislation was it intended to give fair warning that social change was dangerous."

Not only that, but Elfbrandt was a young, idealistic teacher in the Amphitheater School District. She taught, among other classes, an eighth-grade social-studies course that covered the U.S. and Arizona constitutions.

During the school year, Elfbrandt attended a legislative debate on the draft bill, where she obtained literature from backers of the measure. "It showed the NAACP and other (civil-rights groups) would be affected," she remembers.

Elfbrandt recalls that no legislator dared criticize the bill during the debate. Instead, she says, all they did was mock those opposing it.

Once the legislation became law, Elfbrandt initially was the only one who volunteered to oppose it legally. "I believed I'd be fired," she says, but that didn't happen.

The law simply called for public employees who didn't sign the oath to not be paid. As a result, Elfbrandt kept her job but received no salary. Nonetheless, her employment became controversial. "Some parents didn't want their children in my class," Elfbrandt says.

Her fellow teachers didn't bother her about the lawsuit, Elfbrandt says, and she credits Amphi's superintendent, Marion Donaldson, for the fact that she was "treated really decently" at work.

In 1962, Elfbrandt's husband, Vernon, a teacher in the Tucson Unified School District, joined the protest—leaving the couple without almost any income.

In response, their supporters—including Clyde Appleton, who also went without pay for a year from his TUSD job—assembled a list of possible contributors from around the country; hundreds eventually donated funds. In addition, the Elfbrandts' landlady, Helen d'Autremont, waved their rent, and their attorney in the case, Ed Morgan, took it on a contingency basis.

Elfbrandt says a representative of the Arizona Attorney General's Office asked her to drop the lawsuit, insisting she couldn't win. Plus, he added, the law wouldn't be enforced anyway. Other people told Elfbrandt the suit was frivolous, and she couldn't prevail. That was certainly the way things looked when a Superior Court judge, and then the Arizona Supreme Court, found the law to be constitutional.

Despite those setbacks, the case continued for years, as Elfbrandt persevered and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

By a 5-4 margin, the high court in 1966 struck down the law, calling it a "threat to the cherished freedom of association protected by the First Amendment."

With some of the back pay she received, Elfbrandt reimbursed financial supporters who had asked to be repaid.

She remembers the U.S. Supreme Court ruling had immediate impacts on two oaths at the federal level.

"I thought there was something I could do," she explains. And she did.

Dave Devine

ddevine@tucsonweekly.com


Bryan Foulk

This dentist makes sure the homeless and underserved get the care that they need

Bryan Foulk - JANELLE MONTENEGRO

Tucson has a real-life "yes man" in its midst. But unlike the Jim Carrey character, this guy and his inability to say "no" tend to help people, not get him into trouble.

Meet Dr. Bryan Foulk. Fresh out of the UA in 1979, he pursued his doctorate of medical dentistry at the Washington University of St. Louis.

"I didn't do a lot of volunteering until I got out of dental school," he says. "Then I thought, 'I'm making a little money now' ... and then somebody asks you to do this or do that, and, as my wife says, I can't say no. Then you do it, and you feel good, so you do it a little more."

When buddy and fellow dentist David Robb told Foulk that he should volunteer at St. Elizabeth Health Center—which provides medical and dental care for the uninsured and underserved—Foulk predictably said yes.

That was 23 years ago, and Dr. Foulk has been taking time out of his practice one day per month to offer his dental expertise at St. Elizabeth's ever since. He sees about 12 patients in a day, doing crowns, fillings or more major procedures for patients who are in pain.

"One lady, she had terrible decay in the front of her mouth, so that when she smiled, it was just black," he says. Months after being treated, the woman sent back a picture of herself with a glowing white smile.

"Now she is looking good and can go get an interview, get a job," he says.

The woman with the new pearly whites is the rare exception; most patients who Dr. Foulk sees at St. Elizabeth's do not keep in touch, sometimes because of a language barrier.

"I'd like to tell you that they're really grateful, but it's kind of a transient population we see," he says. "They get it done, and then they go away."

Rosemary Leon, dental director at St. Elizabeth's, says professional volunteers like Foulk allow the center to offer services on a sliding fee scale based on patient income.

"(Foulk) hasn't been here the longest, but he is definitely way up there," says Leon. "And it seems like he is involved with almost every program out there."

Foulk, now 51, also volunteers at Hope Fest, during which busloads of patients are brought from homeless shelters for quick one-day dental procedures. In these situations, he says, appreciation abounds.

"If they don't have any teeth, we give them dentures," he says. "Those people, now they're grateful."

Rather than relying on positive feedback, Foulk says he is content with a sense of self-satisfaction.

"When you help somebody, and they smile at you, they might not thank you, but you feel good," he says.

Foulk became a member of the Metro Water board of directors when "a hydrologist friend of mine talked me into it." He also couldn't decline the opportunity to join a friend in starting Kids in Need, a charity which provides school supplies and clothes to underprivileged children.

His activity load increased again when another chance to help out the community arose in the form of Youth on Their Own. He was one of seven people who originally donated money to get the organization off the ground. The nonprofit provides homeless high school students with financial assistance, counseling and basic human needs.

Included in those basic human needs is dental care. Foulk continues to welcome teens in need into his office (free of charge) for braces, tooth extractions or "whatever they need to look and feel good." This, in turn, gives them the confidence to go further in life and hopefully get their high school diploma. YOTO named him their Man of the Year in 2005.

"It's a need," he says. "Somebody needs to do these things. I see the need, and I make sure it gets done."

Erica Nannini

mailbag@tucsonweekly.com


Kathy and Steve Freeman

They help parents of special-needs children get answers through collaboration, not complaints

The Freemans, left to right: Kathy, Alexis, Dominique and Steve. - FARREN HALCOVICH
  • Farren Halcovich
  • The Freemans, left to right: Kathy, Alexis, Dominique and Steve.

Most parents of kids with special needs rarely get a chance to, say, directly ask a school district's director of special education difficult questions.

But that's not a problem for parents in the Tucson Unified School District, thanks in part to Kathy and Steve Freeman, who volunteer with the Exceptional Parent Project (EPP), a parents' group that meets once a month at Duffy Elementary School.

The Freemans are a constant calming presence in meetings that could easily turn sour. In the large Duffy resource room, Lorraine St. Germain, TUSD's special education executive director, sits with parents of kids with a wide range of disabilities.

While St. Germain always attends these meetings, it is clear that this is a parent-led group. On occasion, a parent comes in angry, meaning St. Germain finds herself in the hot seat from time to time. But usually, parents simply ask questions (and sometimes get answers), as the Freemans help parents get needed information.

The Freemans say that they learned early on that when it comes to the public-school system, the best approach is to get everyone to work together in a way that benefits the child. Complaining, shouting and insults usually don't work.

Thirteen years ago, the Freeman's youngest of their two daughters was born was Down syndrome. Dominique is now a student at Gridley Middle School; their oldest daughter, Alexis, 15, is a student at BASIS Tucson.

"When (Dominique) was finally diagnosed two weeks after she was born, we were overwhelmed and then swamped with so much information. But there were people who helped us, some every step of the way," Kathy says.

While the Freemans still deal with the challenges of educating Dominique in the public-school system, they've also paid it forward by helping other parents of kids with special needs.

At Tucson Medical Center, when a baby is born with Down syndrome, the Freemans are part of a group of parents who are asked to talk to the new parents.

"It's a pleasure to share our experience, and tell them, 'There's help out there for you,'" Steve says.

In the EPP group, the Freemans offer advice alongside other parents and school staff members to parents of kids with Down syndrome, autism, ADHD and learning disabilities.

"There are so many different needs that need to be met," Steve says. "I remember there was a time when each little group was working on its own thing. We still need to come together more, especially on the state level, and if we fight together, we'll have a stronger voice. We're all fighting the same kind of fight."

Last spring, the Freemans helped bring a Wrightslaw Special Education workshop to Tucson, and with sponsorships from organizations like the Arc of Tucson, the Tucson Alliance for Autism, and the Southern Arizona Network for Down Syndrome, they were able to get the cost down substantially.

Early in her tenure, TUSD Superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen accepted an invitation to attend an EPP meeting to explain her plans for the district. Celania-Fagen accepted a second invitation and again spoke to parents early this month.

"That hadn't happened before," Steve says.

Occasionally TUSD governing board members will also visit the EPP meetings, specifically Mark Stegeman and Miguel Cuevas.

"I think the EPP project, in the way it is running now, is an outlet for parents to get more information and to learn how they can better meet their child's needs. It's such an intimate setting that you know you can get an answer," Kathy explains.

Steve adds: "Those of us involved, we've built a relationship over the years. I think it will only get better for our children if ... all parents (of kids with special needs) come together."

Mari Herreras

mherreras@tucsonweekly.com


Nina Rabin

She fights for the rights of migrant women and shines a light on deplorable detention-facility conditions

Nina Rabin - FARREN HALCOVICH

For the last three years, Nina Rabin has been listening to the troubles of some of the least-powerful people in Tucson: low-wage immigrant workers.

Most of them are women, the unseen people who take care of the elderly in nursing homes, tend to toddlers in day-care centers, clean toilets in hotels and empty wastebaskets in offices.

They come to Rabin with a host of workplace problems.

"A lot of it is unpaid wages," says Rabin, but she also sees discrimination, sexual-harassment and workplace-safety issues.

By the time the women get to Rabin's storefront clinic, many of them have already been fired. The employers, counting on the fact that the women may be undocumented and fearful of the law, refuse to pay them the money they're owed.

That's before the bosses find out that Rabin and her students are on the case.

Rabin teaches at the James E. Rogers College of Law and directs border research for the Southwest Institute for Research on Women, the research arm of the Women's Studies Department. The indefatigable Rabin also co-directs the law school's Immigrant Law Clinic, and represents detainees in deportation cases—all in addition to running the low-wage workers' clinic.

She and her team of law students have a good track record of getting tight-fisted bosses to pay up.

"We do informal negotiations with the employers," Rabin says. "They think nobody is watching. If they get a phone call from the UA, they pay attention."

Even when immigrants are undocumented, they enjoy the same workplace rights that legal residents and citizens do, particularly the right to be paid for their work. Rabin lets the employers know that it's unlawful for them to retaliate by ratting out employees who assert those rights to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In any case, most bosses don't want to tip off the government that they know their workers are illegal.

The clinic has seen hundreds of women, and boasts a 60 percent success rate in settling their claims. One woman victimized by "severe sexual harassment" settled her case for $10,000.

"We've gotten close to $30,000 in unpaid wages and settlement agreements. We don't take a fee. It goes directly to the women," she says.

Recently, the clinic broadened its mission to serve men as well, but the woes of immigrant women are closest to Rabin's heart. She made a splash last January with her searing publication, Unseen Prisoners: A Report on Women in Immigration Detention Facilities in Arizona.

She and her students conducted interviews with female detainees in a trio of federal detention centers in Florence and Eloy, two of them run by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America. The women—and men—in detention are being held on status offenses, not criminal charges, but they have fewer rights than criminal inmates. And their conditions of imprisonment are appalling.

"The detention centers are indistinguishable from jail," Rabin says.

Food is scant; strip searches are routine; medical care is elusive; and legal consultations are rare. (Unlike prisoners charged with a crime, detainees have no legal right to an attorney.) Phone calls are prohibitively expensive, and detainees are often held thousands of miles away from their families. Some are imprisoned for months and even years.

Women have been in Arizona's federal detention centers only since 2001, and the facilities are woefully unprepared to meet their medical needs. Pregnant and lactating women do not get adequate prenatal and postnatal care, the prisoners told Rabin, and one woman with cervical cancer had to wait months to see a doctor. Most of the women are mothers, and worst of all is the separation from their children—and most of those children are U.S. citizens. Rabin says ICE disputed her findings, but she was able to present them at a congressional briefing, and she met with a Department of Homeland Security staffer investigating the detention centers.

Last summer, the Obama administration announced plans for an overhaul of the system.

Rabin has a fancy education, a bachelor's degree from Harvard and a law degree from Yale, and she could be pulling in a big salary at a top firm. But she spent a year between college and law school working in Honduras, helping desperate people in the wake of Hurricane Mitch. She saw firsthand the desperation that propels migrants north.

She's already embarked on her next research project. Some female detainees, she's learned, are at risk of losing custody of their kids. When moms are locked up in places like Eloy and Florence, Child Protective Services may find them negligent.

"One of my detained clients is in the process of potentially losing her kids," Rabin says. "There are some serious problems here."

And Rabin's determined to do something about it.

The low-wage workers' clinic can be reached at 621-7331.

Margaret Regan

mregan@tucsonweekly.com


Betty Welton

She gives neglected, abused and abandoned animals aid and—if necessary—a permanent home

Betty Welton - KAREN GONZALES
  • Karen Gonzales
  • Betty Welton

Though they come from many different circumstances, the animals arriving at Healing Hearts Animal Rescue and Refuge near Willcox all have at least one thing in common: They've lost their homes and the people who previously cared for them.

Tough times for people translate into even tougher times for animals.

Equine animals (horses, donkeys and mules) have been especially hard-hit by the economic downturn, because they're expensive to maintain. But a woman from Gilbert, seeing the desperate situations these creatures face, is making a difference in as many of their lives as she possibly can.

In 2005, Betty Welton, now 63, was working as president and CEO of the Arizona Animal Welfare League, Arizona's largest and oldest no-kill shelter for dogs and cats. However, she left her position to follow a dream: She and a friend bought a ranch near Willcox to create a nonprofit, no-kill shelter on 54 acres for humankind's beasts of burden, as well as other animals.

Just as Welton's dream took shape, the economy took a nosedive, and she became aware of how many horses, donkeys and mules were ending their lives in horrific ways—abandoned, abused and neglected, turned out to fend for themselves after a lifetime of care, or sent to slaughter facilities in Canada and Mexico.

"It was my dream to start an organization that could help not only dogs and cats, but livestock, in particular horses, providing lifetime care to those animals that were not able to be adopted," she says.

So far, 26 of the 54 acres have been developed with 20 1-acre horse pens and an 18-stall horse barn. Plans for the remaining acreage include a caretaker house; facilities for cats, dogs, rabbits, goats, cows and pigs; and a multipurpose building with a veterinary clinic, volunteer and staff accommodations, and an education center.

In 2006, Welton moved into a small building on her new property. She lived there for a year, hired a live-in caretaker, and learned how to care for her refuge's first occupants, horses that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office had turned over to her. Four were victims of severe abuse, starving and traumatized upon arrival. Three more were seized from their former owner when he was declared criminally insane.

Since then, the animals have kept coming. The count is currently 48 horses, donkeys and mules, 10 pigs and about 20 goats. Where do they come from?

"I receive 25 to 30 e-mails per day regarding animals in need; additionally, we work closely with the Department of Agriculture's livestock inspectors, Border Patrol and other rescue groups," Welton says.

New arrivals are assessed and receive grooming and hoof care; if they're healthy and mentally sound, they are put up for adoption. If considered unadoptable, they live out their lives at Healing Hearts, where they enjoy visits from Betty. One of those animals, Ed, is an old rodeo horse who loves pears and expects them when she arrives.

In August 2009, Healing Hearts launched the use of its mobile veterinary clinic, purchased and re-built with donations. It now operates in the Phoenix area as well as rural areas, offering affordable pet neutering.

Healing Hearts' annual operating budget is $250,000 per year, says Welton; the group is able to generate revenue from the use of the mobile vet clinic, and receives income through grants, private support, donations and fundraising events. "We don't receive any government or United Way funding," Welton adds. "Financial support is our greatest need. With the economic downturn, our services are needed now more than ever before, but donations are down by approximately 30 percent."

Healing Hearts Animal Rescue and Refuge's mailing address is 3317 S. Higley Road, Suite 114-481, Gilbert, AZ 85297. For more information, call (480) 279-5135, or visit www.healingheartsaz.org.

Karen Weston Gonzales

mailbag@tucsonweekly.com

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