It’s personal: Manager cares for families

Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

Kari Sharpe takes her job for the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern personally.

***image1***“I get the opportunity to personally interact with families and those in the community with special needs,” she said. “I personally get to see the benefits of what I’m doing, and I love that.”

As the Exceptional Family Member Program manager for the past three years, Ms. Sharpe creates and sponsors a number of informational and support groups based on community needs and feedback.

Or, as she said, “My job is to try in as many ways as I can to meet the needs of those in the community who have special needs, and I feel that the support groups are a great way to supplement the services that are already out there.”

Currently, there are support groups for those who had the gastric bypass surgery, parents who have children with Autism or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and a group for hearing-impaired and hearing children, who are learning sign language in school. The recent addition is the Diabetes Youth Group, which had its second meeting June 2 at Donnelly Park on Ramstein.

This new group is also personal for Natalie Todd, Kaiserslautern American Elementary School fourth grader.

“I like (the youth group) because you feel supported,” said Natalie, who has Type 1, or insulin-dependent, Diabetes. “You feel like you are not alone.”

Natalie, and children like her and their families, are always on Ms. Sharpe’s mind whether she is out in the community or at home making dinner for her own family.

“I’m constantly looking at the needs of the community and the way I assess what groups we should try to start or how we should change the ones that already exist,” she said.

This dedication did not go unnoticed by Natalie’s father, Maj. Alan Todd, a nurse anesthetist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

“I think for Ms. Sharpe to organize places and events like this shows that she is dedicated to the families and children in Kaiserslautern,” he said. “This group is very important for our family because it allows us to get out and talk with other parents who are dealing with diabetes on a day-to-day basis.”

Ms. Sharpe said she has found that the most beneficial thing for families is to learn from each other.

“It’s extremely important to have groups like this one because there are professionals and services available to families in the community, but sometimes, the most important thing, for those who have certain special needs, is being in touch with others who are in similar situations,” said Ms. Sharpe.

Besides organizing support groups, Ms. Sharpe has an extensive resource library and can provide referrals to several community organizations and agencies.

For more information or to suggest other support groups, call Ms. Sharpe at 489-8358 or 0631-536-8358, or visit her office located in Bldg. 2891 on Pulaski Barracks in Kaiserslautern.