Dig out your poodle skirt and leather jacket. A 1950s style , complete with comfort food, music, and Arthur Murray dance lessons will launch the first ever fundraising event for Nana Cares: The Kattie O. Berkoski Foundation, a charity born from a daughter’s love for her mother.
“My mother was Nana to her grandchildren and she definitely cared,” said Tara Loper Mansir of the name.
In addition to being the mother of three daughters and grandmother of 10, Berkoski spent her adult life working in healthcare; first for Dr. Semlear in Sag Harbor, and later, Dr. Siegler in East Hampton and White in Wainscott. She was one of the first women on the and was voted EMT of the year in 1978. She later joined the ambulance squad.
A member of the Coalition for Woman’s Cancers at , Mansir conceived of Nana Cares last April when she learned that the cost of “Lucia’s Room,” a room dedicated to the memory of Lucia Terzi Bagan designed to make the final days of cancer patients more comfortable, had risen considerably.
To encourage donations, Southampton Hospital offered to hang a plague in “Lucia’s Room” with the name of the person (or that of a loved one) who donates $1,000 dollars.
“When I heard about the plague,” Mansir said, “I immediately thought ‘Mommy’s name needs to be on that wall.’”
Then in March 2010, Berkoski, who was suffering from lung cancer, was found paralyzed at home. “We were not able to care for her at home, as she required around the clock care,” Mansir said.
“She was placed at Southampton Hospital and was only receiving ‘comfort care,’ however it was a cold, empty room and although East End Hospice helped us along the way and the staff was wonderful, there was a coldness that will always haunt me,” Mansir said.
Mansir does not want others to suffer the same regrets. She approached her sisters Teresa Loper Schurr and Tina Loper Ozturk, as well as two childhood friends Vanessa Miller Bock and Fran Miller Silipo, who grew up in the same Springs neighborhood, and Nana Cares became a not-for-profit corporation last May. The first deposit into the bank account was made on May 21 – Berkoski’s birthday.
Silipo grew up around Berkoski. “I’ve known her as somebody who organized the Christmas dinner at the legion hall for many years and got great pleasure out of bringing the senior citizens in, feeding them, cooking for them, and having Santa come and bring gifts," Silipo said. "She loved to give of herself which is why I wanted to be part of this because it’s all about taking care of people in need.”
Proceeds from the Sock Hop will benefit Lucia’s Room. In the future, the charity hopes to reach out to those struggling financially by offering assistance with life’s basic necessities.
Beneficiaries will be referred to Nana Cares by friends, doctors, and schools. According to Mansir, Nana Cares will pay bills, provide gift cards, put money on accounts with doctors and pharmacies, but will not provide direct financial support. Nor will they accept requests from individuals on their own behalf.
The charity plans to offer at least one scholarship to any East End resident who plans on returning to school or is in school continuing their education in the field of human services.
“Nana Cares is a good cause to help people who are down on their luck,” said Sean Tyrrell, who owns a construction company located in Montauk that will be sponsoring the Sock Hop. “A lot of organizations in town try to help but are sometimes slow moving. Nana Cares sounds like it will be able to step in and help in big ways by giving small amounts to pay for electricity bills or other essentials people are unable to afford.”
The Nana Cares Sock Hop will be held Friday night at the in Amagansett from 6 to 11 p.m. Tickets, for anyone 21 years or older, are $20 and can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or cost $25 at the door. The event will include a cash bar and Chinese Auction.