“How can the kids be part of this?:” On Matt Gillette’s memories

Nov 19, 2021

As a part of this season of mourning, we’d like to share with you some memories of our brother and former Volunteer Coordinator, Matt Gillette. We hope these stories will encourage you to live out the way of Jesus and embrace God’s just as our brother did. 

“On several occasions and the last time we went on a ‘walking meeting,’ Matt said about two times, “Adriana, who you are NOW is exactly the leader that Casa needs.” At the time I heard his words yet had difficulty living out from this truth. Since Matt’s passing, I’ve realized I’ve been leading out from that truth he spoke over me.” 

“Over the past years, Matt and Abby were consistently present at vital community events. One event that comes to mind is one of our beach trips from 2014. This was a trip when I began really getting to know Abby and Matt. One thing I remember Matt saying was how much he hated sand. And I was like, but we’re at the beach. And he was like, I know. And now that I think back to that, I realized that despite how much he hated sand, he LOVED being in community much more and was more than willing to get past his own personal discomforts to be present.” Adriana Schellhaas, Executive Director. 

“Matt fue una persona muy especial en la vida de Casa Chirilagua, siempre recordándonos como desarrollar amistades con familias, invitándonos a caminar despacio y oir la voz de Dios en medio de la cotidianeidad, en medio de los pequeños detalles como una caminata en el parque, o por las calles de Chirilagua. Matt era una persona con gran sabiduría, leyendo muchos libros, invitándonos a leer, escribir y meditar en la palabra de Dios.” Liz Wang, Community Development Director

“One evening, after family dinner, Matt, myself, our local leaders, a couple of volunteers, and several students from Kids Club and Teens Club were all playing basketball together. Matt and I enjoyed how it brought everyone together- even if some were still figuring out the rules. At the end of it, Matt and I were so tired but happy that we got to play basketball with all of our community members together.” Jose Martinez, Mentoring Program Director 

“I didn’t know Matt for too long but the little time that I did is close to my heart. Matt was very confident in his faith. He wasn’t scared to express how much he loved God and likewise, God shined beautifully through him. One of our last staff conversations with him about rhythms is still pretty clear in my head. He was prepared and had put so much thought into the intentions and goals he had for the team. His love and dedication to God were shown through his dedication to Casa and Chirilagua in general. His confidence in God was also seen through the confidence he had in himself. I know it must have not been easy to get to that point. He still took the time and thought to minister to those around him which is more inspiring than I could ever put into words.” Cindi Villanueva, Local Leader. 

“As we come up on the holidays and I think about Matt, I am reminded of how much he LOVED Christmas and how much he LOVED our kids. A few years ago, we were talking about Christmas decorations for the center and he shared how much he loved the large nativity scenes that are set up in many Central American countries. He wanted us to have our own nativity scene and he really wanted the kids to feel like it was theirs. He ordered these big boxes and when they arrived, all the kids were so excited to see what surprise Mr. Matt had brought that day. He invited them to come over and unbox the nativity and he had them all help with setting it up so that we could be reminded of the holy family during the Christmas season. Matt’s question was never “should the kids help with this or be a part of this?” but always “how can the kids be part of this?” He so valued them and wanted them to know that he saw them as leaders, and that meant a lot to our kids.” – Marissa Salgado, Programs Director

In memory of Matt Gillette.
November 2021. 

We are a community of people “learning together to love our neighbors as ourselves” in a Latino neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia.

As a faith-based Christian non-profit with a small staff and over 100 volunteers, we serve alongside more than 100 families and their children (1st-12th grades) each week through our community programs.

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Our relational network of volunteers and donors reflects a diverse group of individuals from all over the Washington, D.C. metro area. As a non-profit, we rely on the community for assisting program directors on-site, being mentors, supplying the needs of our food pantry, and everything in between. Each member of our Casa community holds a unique gift, whether time, talent or treasure.