Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spotlight on: Casa de Esperanza

By Alyssa Sickle, Executive Assistant and Events Coordinator

Do you watch the TODAY Show while you eat breakfast or get ready for work in the morning? If you were watching on June 15th, you might have caught a special segment highlighting Casa de Esperanza, a Catholic Volunteer Network member program in in Houston. They had the honor of being included in TODAY’s annual “Lend a Hand” program, which highlights five charities around the country. In addition to being visited by the morning news program, Casa de Esperanza received donations from corporate sponsors and received a special visit from former First Daughter Jenna Bush Hager.

Casa de Esperanza de los Niños, the House of Hope for Children, was selected to be on the “Lend a Hand” program by the TODAY Show staff, who asked their contacts in various places around the country to make recommendations on local charities. The TODAY Show researched Casa before contacting them and then continued to learn about their community work as they planned details for the big day and requested donations from corporate sponsors.

Now in its tenth year, the “Lend a Hand” project is a series on the TODAY show where host Al Roker travels to five cities in five days in support of five different charities. The publicity from the program and the donations from sponsors further the mission of the each of the charities. For Casa de Esperanza, this was a great boost of support for them in caring for children in crisis the Houston area, who are affected by abuse, neglect, and/or HIV.

Ashley McFarland, Casa’s non-profit management intern, described some of the preparations, “Prior to the live taping in the neighborhood, TODAY show correspondents came and spent some time on our property learning about what we do by speaking with our directors and spending some time playing and interacting with our children. There was a pizza party and lots of play time on the playground, so it was a fun day for children and staff.”

Since the event was supposed to be mostly secretive until the big reveal on the show, Casa did not talk about their invitation on social media or other public communication prior to the event. They did, however, want to have a large crowd at their service site on the day of the taping, so they emailed all of their local volunteers, Board members, company affiliates, and donors to invite them to come to the neighborhood on the day of the filming and be a part of the show.

On June 15, TODAY Show host Al Roker along with TODAY Show correspondent Jenna Bush Hager joined Casa Founders and Directors Kathy Foster and Bill Jones and their staff at their new neighborhood center near the Houston Medical Center.

A press release from Casa de Esperanza described the morning the show aired. “A sea of purple swept Casa de Esperanza’s neighborhood as volunteers, long-time supporters and adoptive families of Casa de Esperanza flooded the property early Wednesday morning to help unload the mass of donations from generous sponsors. Jenna Hager interviewed Kathy Foster and co-founder Bill Jones, as well as a long-term volunteer to gain a deeper understanding of the impact Casa de Esperanza has on the community. While on the property, Hager also took time out to read and play with the neighborhood children. During story time, the children sat attentively and listened quietly as Hager read some of their favorite books.” 

Founder and Director, Kathy Foster said, “The generosity of the sponsors is truly overwhelming and we are incredibly grateful for all of their support. Their donations will help us further our mission to care for children in crisis in the Houston community.”

To view a recap of the episode, please visit the TODAY Show at http://allday.today.com/_news/2011/06/15/6863325-lend-a-hand-breaks-single-day-donation-record-in-houston.