Several years ago, a friend invited me to attend a gala at a place called Esperanza Community Services.  I agreed because she was my friend and she was excited to show me where she was volunteering her time as a board member. From the moment I walked in the door, I felt the energy of the participants and the volunteers.  Once I saw the student’s beautiful artwork and I heard their joyful music, I was hooked! Since then, I have kept coming back to Esperanza because I was excited, and my enthusiasm has never waned. I want to tell you why.

I am a frustrated “artist” and had taken an art class or two in my day.  But it wasn’t until I saw the art at Esperanza that I realized what energy had to do with drawing or painting.  I had always been intent on creating an exact replica of what I was painting and I did not understand what art teachers meant by telling me to put “energy” into my work.  Well, I understood as I viewed the art created by the participants of Coleridge, the adult education program at Esperanza.  The colors, the lines and the brush strokes all worked to create a piece of art as unique as the artist.  No, it is not an exact replica of the inspiration for the art – it is way better!  I remember asking the art teacher, Julie Molter, how she got such great work from her students.  She told me it was not hard; they love to paint and express themselves. That was the answer!  The students at Esperanza feel safe and free to express themselves – and they put all of their “energy” into that expression without editing.

Later in the evening, the Gala featured a play and music performed by the Coleridge students.  The play was written, directed and acted by the students in conjunction with a volunteer theater group called Imagination Workshop. Talk about energy!  And the choir performance, conducted by teacher James Cornolo, showcased the vocal and dance talents of our amazing students.

That evening stayed in my heart and I started attending more events at Esperanza.  About two years later my schedule allowed me to volunteer some quality time, and there was no question that Esperanza was top on my list.  Volunteering with people who are passionate about making a difference in peoples’ lives has given me so much.  Not only do I get satisfaction from working with people who make a difference, but I am also learning about the issues surrounding developmental disability.

I had never worked on a board of directors before, so I am learning how not-for-profits are run, how to fund-raise and so much more. The best part of it all is that I am part of a team of people who put their time and energy into working with some of the most amazing children and adults I have ever met!

– Mary von Mandel, Esperanza Board Director