Casa Esperanza receives $20,000 donation
By JORDAN ECARMA, Santa Barbara News-Press Staff Writer
Photos by THOMAS KELSEY, Santa Barbara News-Press
October 3, 2012 6:32 AM
Local homeless center Casa Esperanza received a donation of more than $20,000 from a Texas-based insurance corporation when some of its employees recently visited Santa Barbara for a company retreat.
“I expected a couple hundred,” said John “JB” Bowlin, a Casa Esperanza volunteer coordinator. “My jaw dropped in a great way when they said how much they were giving.”
American Income Life, an insurance company that’s part of Torchmark Corp., sends its employees on company retreats four or five times a year.
Calling themselves “Closer to the Heart,” the members of this particular group find ways to give back to each community they visit.
For the Santa Barbara trip, 11 volunteers from Closer to the Heart donated time as well as money, serving lunch to the homeless in Casa Esperanza’s community kitchen on Tuesday.
On an average day, about 200 people are served at the lunch, Mr. Bowlin said.
“This is more than I thought it would be. They were so gracious with giving their time,” Mr. Bowlin said of the Closer to the Heart group. “I think it’s wonderful that they’re really digging in and doing great work.’
While planning the company retreats, the group specifically looks for ways to volunteer during the visit.
“We search for local grassroots organizations where we can pitch in to help those in need,” American Income Life representative Heidi Diecedue said. “We like to make the communities better than they were when we came.”
Ms. Diecedue, who contacted Casa Esperanza around two months ago to schedule the lunch, called volunteering at the center a “team-building experience.”
Since the American Income Life employees are from all around the country, volunteering brought them together and helped them to build friendships, she said.
Besides providing funding and serving lunch, the group donated professional clothing to Casa Esperanza, which is both an emergency center and a place that helps individuals connect locally and find a permanent place to live.
“What a great day,” noted Imelda Loza, associate executive director at Casa Esperanza. “With the lack of supports all nonprofits face, having a donation like this was very needed. We’re very grateful to American Income Life for their generosity.”
Casa Esperanza, founded in 1999, is located at 816 Cacique St.
For more information, go to www.casa-esperanza.org.