This summer, the Apache Junction Unified School District will partner with the US Department of Agriculture to offer free nutritious breakfasts and lunches to children age 18 and younger at three locations in Apache Junction. All children, ages 18 and under, are eligible for free meals, regardless of family income. Enrollment at an AJUSD school is not required.
As a follow up to the Gold Canyon Coordinating Committee’s March 28 meeting, the group met again on May 4 to update residents on local concerns. Committee members present were David Coward, Abe Dye, Phil Flood, Steve Knauer, Roberto Reveles, Dick Richards and Edward Wakeham. Knauer and Wakeham (Gold Canyon East) were welcomed as new members of the committee.
Cactus Canyon Junior High Principal Courtney Castelhano was recently named Apache Junction Unified School District’s new manager of curriculum. She will begin her new position July 1, joining the Educational Services department. Her focus will be on improving systems and supports for district students to help increase achievement at the junior high and high school levels.
Otter the dog now has a happy life with her forever family, it took a while, she even has a new four-legged friend, but the journey getting there was a bit treacherous, even with a little help from the Apache Junction Parks and Recreation department. Determined Parks staffers needed a month to rescue the injured puppy near Prospector Park last summer. Otter was spotted in August limping in the park and was recognized by a parks worker as a dog seen weeks earlier.
Margo Crawford snapped this photo of three young hawks with their mother in the nesting station along US-60 between Ironwood and Meridian Roads in Apache Junction. She was riding in a vehicle’s passenger seat and was able to capture her best picture yet of the hawk nest. Margo identified the mother as a Red Tail Hawk. She said the pole nest was built for them because the original nest on the exit sign at Idaho was too distracting to traffic.
The Apache Junction Unified School District Volunteer and Employees of the Month for March were slected from Cactus Canyon Junior High and introduced by Principal Courtney Castelhano. Heather Maertens is the Volunteer of the Month. “Heather has helped coach our girls softball team for more than seven years, and they have won six championships in those seven years,” said Castelhano.
The Superstition Mountain Branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley celebrated its much-anticipated 21st annual YesterYear celebration on April 6, 2019. This fundraiser has been directly benefiting the Superstition Mountain Branch and the many children, parents and families of the community that they serve for decades. This year, $100,000 was raised, thanks to the many supporters who attended the event.
Green vegetation dots the mountain range from Quarter Circle U Ranch headquarters to the edge of the Superstition Mountains, where genetically selected black Angus cattle roam rocky trails, eating cacti and dry hay. Chuck Backus is a ranch owner cloaked in science, his background in engineering leading him to choose the right genes for cattle to survive in the hardened landscape and heat of the Arizona mountains.
Over 1,500 severely disabled veterans, therapists and volunteers will benefit from two grants totaling $825,826 from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA). Programs will be conducted as part of DSUSA’s Warfighter Sports program and Adapt2Achieve training and education program. Justin Murphy, program supervisor at Arizona Disabled Sport, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, anticipates receiving a share of those funds.
At the April 9 Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board Meeting, Daughters of the American Revolution, Apache Trail Chapter representative Bonnie Williams presented Summer Mittendorf with a certificate and bronze medal for “Excellence in History.”
Wedding Crashers meets Grumpy Old Women in Regrets Only, a zany comedy that will be performed by the Cactus Canyon Junior High Drama Club, Thurs., May 2 at 7 p.m. at the AJHS Performing Arts Center. There will also be a free day show for all retired community members, May 2 at 9:30 a.m. at the PAC. Audience members need to check in at the high school office and then proceed to the PAC.
Artists are needed for the 20th Annual Gold Canyon Arts Festival, a one-day event, to be held on Saturday, January 25, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church, 6640 S. Kings Ranch Rd. in Gold Canyon, Arizona, 85118. Many artists and participants say this is the “best one day show” they’ve experienced. The venue offers good parking and drive-by visibility. Our attendance is over 4,000 each year! Typically, 85-90 artists are jury selected to show their work.
Members of the Gold Canyon Lions Club dropped off Easter treats to Project HELP to provide holiday gifts and goodies to students in Apache Junction Unified School District. Project HELP, 195 E. Superstition Blvd. in Apache Junction, emerged over 30 years ago to offer creative solutions to temporary, emergency situations for AJUSD students and families in times of need.
Noah Tholen may only be in third grade, but the Peralta Trail Elementary student knows a thing or two about games. He plays with confidence on his iPad tablet, but when it came time to learn something new, he decided to go with the non-electronic game of chess. Noah was one of many elementary school students in Apache Junction Unified School District to learn chess and play against other students in the Student Chess League that began in 2018.
Every day, U.S. Postal Services workers and letter carriers see families in need. Every second Saturday in May, you and they get to do something about it.
On Saturday, May 11, the postal service will conduct its Stamp Out Hunger® Food Drive. Apache Junction letter carriers will join more than 10,000 cities and towns across America for the largest one-day food drive in the nation. The city’s drive benefits the AJ Food Bank.
Volunteers are also necessary to help unload and sort donations. It is a great team-building exercise and is available to teams of ten. Sign up at http://bit.ly/Postaldrivecommunitysignup before May 3.
The Apache Junction Food Bank has announced a $25,000 capital campaign for building renovations at its Idaho Road facility. It is asking the community to” invest in itself “ in serving the emergency food needs of local residents. In initiating the capital campaign, food bank president Bob Mohle cited the pressing need for facility improvements and upgrades.
Fourth grade students and their teachers will again explore and celebrate water at the annual Apache Junction Water Festival on April 25 at Prospector Park -- and volunteers are needed. Volunteers from the water industry, local governments and the community make the Water Festival possible. You can help make the event fun and educational through volunteering!
The Superstition Fire & Medical District (SFMD) has recently lowered its Insurance Service Office (ISO), Public Protection Classification rating to a Class II. The district previous held a Class III rating. The ISO recently completed a detailed analysis of the fire suppression delivery system that SFMD provides to the community. The findings resulted in an exemplary Class II rating, placing SFMD in the top four percent of all fire departments in the country!
On Sunday afternoon, March 10, with sunny skies and 70-degree temps, First Assembly of God Church, 651 N. Ocotillo Dr., Apache Junction, broke ground for a new 425 seat sanctuary and office complex. AJ First has eagerly anticipated this project for our community. Lead Pastor, Rev. Dallas R. Satterfield, and Associate Pastor, Rev. Robert (Bob) Roche, along with 189 members of the congregation and local dignitaries, gathered outside in the church parking lot for the ceremony.
Lauren Quinnely, age 10; Heather Cornwell, age 12; and Jade Cummings, age 13 earned their places as Junior Marchals in the Feb. 23, 2019, Lost Dutchman Days Parade, Apache Junction, by submitting their original artwork based on the theme, “What the Lost Dutchman Days Parade Means to Me.” The contest was open to all students K-12, residing in and/or attending an Apache Junction/Gold Canyon school.
The city of Apache Junction, through a proclamation signed by Mayor Jeff Serdy, is celebrating Fair Housing Month in April. The National Fair Housing Law of 1986, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 prohibits discrimination in housing and declares it a national policy to provide within constitutional limits, for fair housing in the United States.
Apache Junction Police Chief Thomas E. Kelly has been named by Gov. Doug Ducey to the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. “I am honored and humbled to have been selected to this esteemed board and represent our community in such an important part of our law enforcement system,” said Kelly, who has been with the Apache Junction police for 12 years, the last six as chief.
Soroptimist International of the East Valley (SIEV) presented two women with the organization’s signature award, the Live Your Dream scholarship. Paula L. was selected as the first-place recipient, receiving $1,500, and the runner-up, Hanan D., received $1,000. The Live Your Dream Scholarship is designed to help women continue their dream by providing resources to further their education, skills and employment prospects.
The Apache Junction High School NJROTC Academic Team recently placed 4th in a “Brain Brawl” at Moon Valley High School in Phoenix. The team, consisting of (L-R) Cadets Hayden Pride, David Hofman, Brayden Vigil-Nelson, Chase Adam and Haiden Deal, were nearly flawless in sweeping the first four rounds. In a nail biter finish, they came in 4th! The team qualified for the regional competition in Los Angeles, California on March 23rd.
Two years ago, I began the journey to find a school district that needed a leader who had experience in district and school improvement, specifically improving systems that impact student learning and expanding programs that engage students. After some research, I found a district with great potential that I believed would welcome me as part of the family and would allow me to use my leadership to bring out the best in students and staff.
Central Arizona College recognized Vulcan Materials Company for their recent donation of a Caterpillar 325 Hydraulic Excavator and a Caterpillar 988 Wheel Loader during a special dedication ceremony. The equipment, valued at more than $135,000, will be used by students in CAC’s Diesel Technology and Heavy Equipment Operator programs. Students in the heavy equipment operator program will gain hands-on experience and seat time using industry specific equipment.
The “Snowbird” residents of Superstition Buttes Mobile Home Park migrate to Apache Junction from October to May each year, seeking sunshine and good times with new and old friends. During this season, the community residents of the park have become active participants with four local charities. For the past four years, Superstition Buttes residents have donated $500 each year in either products or gift cards to various Veterans’ Associations.
I joined my Superstition Mountain Search & Rescue team, Sunday morning, February 17, to help out at an aid station for the runners of this year’s Lost Dutchman Marathon. It is ranked as one of the top 10 small marathons in the nation. Because it is sanctioned as a Boston Marathon qualifier, it draws runners (approximately 3,500 participants), not only from all over this country, but from all over the world.
Kiwanis Club President Jeff Struble (photo, right) and Braden Biggs, event coordinator (center), presented AJUSD Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson (left) with a check for $4,500; proceeds from the AJ Kids Idol. The funds will be used to purchase and repair instruments for the Apache Junction Unified School District music program.
Salt River Project (SRP) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are honoring nine Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) students as part of the inaugural BBB Ethical Cadet Scholarship program. Cadet Brady Williams, from Apache Junction High School is one of them. The AJHS Navy JROTC program will receive a matching $1,000 award.
On February 6, 2019, the AJ Mounted Rangers met at the Genesis Project and presented a check to Mid Carlozzi for $1,500. The group toured the facilities and were surprised by the amount of help they provide to the hungry and homeless of Apache Junction, including children. The food they served was just like going to a fine restaurant. They also provide clothes and toiletries, among many other services, like vouchers for showers.
Community Alliance Against Family Abuse (CAAFA) has received a $7,500 grant from Thunderbirds Charities, the charitable giving arm of the Thunderbirds – hosts of the Waste Management Phoenix Open presented by Ak-Chin Indian Community. The grant will be used to provide equine therapy for children impacted by domestic and sexual violence.
Parents with a child addicted to alcohol or drugs can find hope in a support program called Parents of Addicted Loved-ones (PAL). The program was founded in 2006 by Michael Speakman, LISAC, while working as an in-patient drug and alcohol addiction counselor in Arizona. There is a local group that meets at Mountain View Lutheran Church, 2122 S. Goldfield Rd. in Apache Junction. The News sat down with Jackie Cornwell Hobson, a facilitator for the group, to find out more.
The Kiwanis Club of Apache Junction, in conjunction with Superstition Mountain Promotional Corp. (Lost Dutchman Rodeo), recently provided Title One curriculum material to Desert Vista Elementary School. The material is used to help improve the reading capabilities of students.
Kelsie Shipman, a sixth grader at Peralta Trail Elementary School, was recently recognized for the poster she created for the 28th Annual Pinal County Attorney’s Office Anti-Drug Poster Contest. Kelsie’s poster was named one of the Top 10 entries this year. Back in September 2018, sixth-grade students in Pinal County were given a month to create a poster with an anti-drug theme that educates and engages Pinal County youth on the importance of being drug-free.
The Genesis Project in Apache Junction seeks the support of the community through the Arizona state income tax charitable contribution dollar-for-dollar tax credit. Taxpayers may receive a tax credit up to $800 on their Arizona state income tax for making a contribution to a qualifying charitable organization.
I found it surprising that so many people participating in last week’s AJ News Poll do not believe right-wing leaders should share the blame for the recent tragedies perpetuated by their followers. I guess there are still a lot of people who don’t believe in the cause and effect “thing.”
When I go out and about in the community, I try very hard to steer away from partisan politics, because it’s just too contentious, especially now. However, I am not above inquiring as to whether people have or are planning to vote. Some have already mailed in their early ballots, and some say they will vote if they have time, while others simply say, “No, I’m not going to vote.”
Volunteering improves not only the communities in which one serves, but also the life of the individual who is providing help to the community. Numerous studies say personal gains for the volunteer are more far reaching than previously understood. In a word, it can be summed up as “happiness” as it expands physical activity, builds friendships, reduces isolation and improve one’s overall sense of worth and well-being.
Local women who are pursuing vocational/skills training or an undergraduate degree are encouraged to apply for the Live Your Dream (LYD) Award through Soroptimist International of the East Valley (SIEV). The Live Your Dream Award, one of the Soroptimist signature programs, provides financial assistance to women who provide the primary source of financial support for their families by giving them the resources they need to improve their education, skills and employment prospects.
In just 48 hours time, regional residents, businesses and civic groups valley wide donated over $3,500 to the Apache Junction Food Bank to repair its 16-foot, refrigerated truck. By Friday, that total surged to just over $6,000. The vehicle’s drive shaft dropped out on University Drive in Mesa with food in it on Tuesday morning.
The community was saddened by the sudden demise of a local landmark. The majestic saguaro that stood just north of Superstition Boulevard in front of Shady Way Gardens fell to ground last Wednesday night. Shady Way employee Gin McMahon smiled as she shared photos of the “old-timer,” who has graced the business at 566 W. Superstition Blvd for more than 20 years.
It’s National Fire Prevention Week and Superstition Fire & Medical District encourages residents to Look. Listen. Learn. What does that mean? Today’s home fires burn faster than ever. In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Knowing how to use that time wisely takes planning and practice.
With all city positions decided in the primary election on August 28, the lone event remaining in the local race is between the four candidates vying for two open seats on the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board. One candidate is an incumbent: Dena Kimble. The other three candidates are: Braden Biggs, Chelsea Connelly and Gilbert Cancio.
Most historians accept the story that an old prospector named Jacob Waltz created one of the most popular legends in American Southwestern history. Storytellers will tell you he spun yarns and gave clues to a rich lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. However, historians will claim Waltz was a very quiet and secluded individual preferring his privacy.
Several years ago, Joe Clary introduced me to the military records of the Rancheria Campaign in the Superstition Mountain area. It was among these field reports and maps that several new names for various landmarks within the Superstition Wilderness Area were discovered.
During County Sheriff Paul Babeu’s administration, this member of the public frequently raised questions about the Sheriff’s exploitation of Pinal County taxpayers and our county’s public resources. Unfortunately, public requests for credible audits of the PCSO have been ignored by the Board of Supervisors.
With all the monsoon rain we have had this year, we are facing a green fall, including all of the unwanted weeds. The code compliance division of Development Services wants to share a friendly reminder that the city does have an ordinance that requires all weeds over 10 inches to be cut. All property owners and/or occupants are responsible for their half of any alleys at the rear of their properties and all the way to the pavement at the front yard.
On Friday, September 7, 60 young adults from Cactus Canyon Junior High took steps toward meeting the noble goals of scholarship, service, leadership, character and citizenship when they were inducted into CCJH’s National Junior Honor Society for the 2018-2019 school year. The ceremony was a celebratory occasion, but becoming an NJHS member is no easy feat.
Students scrambled across the campus on Aug. 24 during STEAM Night at Peralta Trail Elementary School, 10965 E. Peralta Road in Gold Canyon, with one question in mind, “Did it crack?” Dozens of eggs, packaged in a variety of ways, were tossed from the bucket of a 50-foot crane. Students were tasked with designing a structure for their egg to be dropped without breaking.
The Apache Junction and Gold Canyon community was saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Marta Saint-James last week. Marta is remembered as a loving friend to two- and four-legged creatures alike and will be missed for her easy laugh, passionate advocacy and ready-to-help presence.
During the last several months, the Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD), Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the Community Resource Enforcement Unit (CREU) have made numerous narcotics arrests. Many of these cases involved long term enforcement operations and further utilized the assistance of AJPD’s SWAT operators and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.
Good news for taxpayers in Pinal County, as the Board of Supervisors adopted a lower tax rate for FY 2018-2019. The new property tax rate, $3.83, is nearly four cents lower than last year’s $3.86.9. Pinal County joins four other Arizona counties to offer their taxpayers a break this fiscal year. “This is a target for us in our Strategic Plan,” stated Chairman Todd House. “I would like to see it go even lower next year and the following year.”
It’s the policy of Arkansas schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning at the start of classes. Ms. Martha Cothren, a social studies teacher at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, was having trouble getting her students to stand during the pledge, so, with the permission of her principal, Ms. Cothren had all the desks removed from her classroom on the first day of school in 2005. I learned of this event when a friend emailed me about it last week. I called Ms. Cothren and we talked on the phone for a few minutes. Nice lady.
According to legend and myth, the great “Thunder God” roars during the summer months. Many of us do not find this hard to believe, if we have experienced a violent thunderstorm in the Apache Junction area during the summer months. There are basically two types of storms that occur in our area. The first storm type we experience brings the central mountain area of Arizona its winter rains. These winter storms result from the general cyclonic patterns that move across the United States every ten days or so during the winter months.
One of the first questions a 911 dispatcher asks when you call 9-1-1 is “What is your address?” or “Where are you located?” Based on the location information provided, emergency personnel will respond to that location. Emergency personnel are diligent in trying to get to the emergency as quickly as possible; however, delays may occur if access to the property is restricted or they are unable to find the specific unit or address number.
Officer Carl Halperin has been named as liaison between Apache Junction Unified School District and the Apache Junction Police Department. Officer Halperin has an office in the 11/12 building at Apache Junction High School. His duties will include teaching lessons to high school kids about alcohol and related risks, teaching the D.A.R.E. curriculum to all the fifth and eighth grade students in the school district, as well as taking the majority of the district’s criminal or “duty to report” calls for the police department.
Pinal County Federal Credit Union Assistant Branch Manager Kim Gillaspy (left) presented Project HELP Coordinator Rosie Portugal- Brastad (right) with school supplies and money that was collected from the community in July for Apache Junction Unified School District students. Project HELP assists AJUSD families who need a helping hand with food, new and used clothing, school supplies, holiday assistance, financial aid and more.
Last month, we reminded the public about the on-going efforts of criminals who prey upon vulnerable people to steal from them. Lottery and Sweepstakes fraud is one method of theft and is the most common consumer fraud today.The schemes are created by criminals who have scripted answers for any question posed to them.
Just when you think the summer couldn’t get any hotter, the Senior Rodders roll in with their hot rods to present a $4,000 check to the Apache Junction Salvation Army to fund their children’s programs. “We’re a group of guys who like hot rods and old cars,” explained Treasurer Joe Lorden.
Extreme weather conditions such as we have experienced recently with our summer monsoons can have unforeseen effects. The Pinal County Public Health Services District, Environmental Health Services Division would like to help everyone be aware of proper food safety precautions in the event of a power outage.
The Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce held their 2018 Fry’s Food Community Awards Banquet at Roadhaven Golf & Tennis Resort in Apache Junction. The annual formal banquet honors outstanding small business, medium business, large business, non-profit, volunteer, teacher, firefighter, police officer and professor for their dedication and outstanding contributions to the Apache Junction community.
A man was found deceased in the desert south of Apache Junction last Tuesday, July 24. Superstition Fire & Medical District (SFMD) responded to a call for an unconscious hiker about 1:30 p.m. According to SFMD officials, paramedics found the body of a man in his 40s in a desert area near Baseline and Goldfield Roads. The deceased was determined to be homeless and camping nearby.
The Apache Junction Chronic Homeless Coalition on Wednesday received a public partnership award from the Maricopa Association of Governments. The coalition and the Community Resource Center, which is housed at the Genesis Project, were honored with the Desert Peaks award in ceremonies at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel in Phoenix.
How much would you pay for a chance to win “a beat up, old, white, well-used golf cart”? Marcus Rodgers, a veteran and “golf cart doctor” at Robinson Golf Cars, Apache Junction, AZ, provided the less-than-glowing description of a used SoloRider 34 golf cart that was donated to the Disabled American Veterans.
It was a girl’s week with nearly 300 high school girls from across Arizona converging on the University of Arizona campus for the 71st session of the American Legion Auxiliary premier program, Arizona Girls State. This unique opportunity is open to girls completing their junior year of high school who meet the necessary qualifications.
People in Apache Junction, along with residents of much of the Phoenix metropolitan area, can now reach 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers by text message. The service was announced last week by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) with representatives of the Maricopa Region 9-1-1, public agencies that work with members of the disability community, the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the National Association of the Deaf.
The light is shining a little brighter on possible career paths that AJHS students can explore after graduation, thanks to a new Shadowing Program launched in January. The Shadowing Program allows students to explore and plan their education and career choices by researching possible careers and spending a day observing a professional practitioner, artisan or worker in a field that is of interest to the student.
Apache Junction Unified School District Public Relations Coordinator Sally Marks presented awards for the Volunteer and Classified (support staff)Employee of the Month at the May 8, 2018, Governing Board meeting. The April awards highlighted the District Office.
Got Shade? The City of Apache Junction got some recently, at a local playground. The AJ Multi-Generational Center (MGC) playground received a new shade structure after a very generous donation from Apache Greyhound Park.
Members of Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club recently held a benefit event for nearby Apache Junction Paws & Claws Care Center (PCCC). The event raised more than $50,000 for the animal shelter and will support the facility’s efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and adopt-out abandoned and surrendered animals.
Each year, the month of April is recognized as National Distracted Driving Prevention Month. The Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) encourages all motorists to consider how they can practice safe driving habits throughout the year, not just for one month. Simple tasks that are attempted while driving can create deadly results. Adults with teenage drivers are asked to plant the seeds of road-focused driving upon these youngsters.
Community Veterans Center
By Dana Trumbull
Apache Junction is home to more than 1500 veterans – the single largest concentration of vets in Pinal County. And that doesn’t count the influx of veterans among the city’s winter visitors. When veteran Mike Ferguson decided to cultivate his experience as a national councilman with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) into a service that would be a direct conduit to veterans in Pinal County, Apache Junction was the logical place to be.
A donation of two rooms on the north side of the Desert Chapel United Methodist Church (462 N. Palo Verde Rd., Apache Junction) and generous support from the local veterans organizations made the Apache Junction Community Veterans Center a reality, and the center opened its doors on December 15, 2016.
Recognizing the varying needs of different generations of veterans, the center acts as a network hub, maintaining up-to-date information on benefits and helping veterans connect to and apply for a wide range of resources. Vets are also welcome to stop by to watch TV, read, use the computer, have some coffee and talk with other vets. “The services are whatever the veteran’s issue is,” offers Ferguson. “It could be anywhere from finding him a ride to helping her with the power bill. We had one veteran who had passed away in another area, and the family needed to ship his body to where he was going to be buried. So we got that set up and took care of the costs.” Often, older veterans come in, needing a copy of their DD214, knowing their family will need it to apply for benefits when they pass.
Want to learn more about your city? Have some questions about city programs, policies or procedures? Here is your chance to ask.
When the meetings are established, initial concerns and requested topics and speakers are solicited. City officials will provide a brief update and then field questions from residents in an interactive forum.
There is still time to apply for federal funds—received by the city of Apache Junction—as part of the owner occupied housing rehabilitation program. The program provides deferred payment loans from $1,000 to $55,000 for heating, air conditioning, plumbing, roofs, ADA accessibility, code violations and health and safety issues.
Last week, during routine mosquito surveillance, the Pinal County Public Health Services District (PCPHSD) detected the first West Nile Virus (WNV) positive mosquitoes in the county this season, more specifically in the San Tan Valley area. West Nile Virus (WNV), which is spread through the bite of certain mosquitoes, is now common in Arizona.