Volunteer of the Month: Joanna Foote

May 13, 2011

Ms. Joanna Foote was first introduced to the Chirilagua neighborhood during her Freshman year at Georgetown University when she participated in the InterVarsity DC Urban Plunge spring break program. Instead of flying to the inviting beaches of Florida, Joanna stayed in DC to learn about and serve her local community. Her experience with the Urban Plunge spring break program solidified her decision to apply for the extended summer program, InterVarsity DC Bridge program. In Mid-June 2010, with a smile on her face and a passion to serve the marginalized, Joanna showed up to Chirilagua. For Joanna, it was more or less, “Love at first sight.”

She never stopped looking for ways to serve.  If she wasn’t at Kids Club, she was hanging out in the park with the kids. If she wasn’t in the park with the kids, she was at the house playing games with the kids.  She even requested if she could use her down time and skills to research grant opportunities. It became clear very quickly that she wasn’t your average summer college volunteer.

When Joanna returned to school in the fall of 2010, she decided her “summer experience” at Casa Chirilagua could be more than just another “summer experience.”  She was engaged in the lives of the people in our neighborhood and wanted to return to that.   Despite an hour-long commute to and from Georgetown to Chirilagua, she faithfully showed up once a week to volunteer at Kids Club.   Additionally, she sought out a job working for a professor in which she had the privilege of researching barriers limiting access to community resources for children of immigrants.

While we are sad to announce that Joanna will not be returning to Kids Club next fall, it is for a reason which makes our organization and staff immensely proud.  Partly due to what Joanna has experienced and learned through engaging in our neighborhood, this fall Joanna will be serving for a semester at a Jesuit outreach on the US/Mexico border (on the Mexico side) which offers meals and housing to people who have been deported.  It is with great courage and trust in the Lord’s protection that she places herself in the midst of difficulty and a culture of violence which preys on the innocent.

While we understand this is an incredibly politically charged issue, I think we can all agree that Christ never faulted anyone for offering a cup of water in his name, feeding the hungry, or inviting in the stranger.  We are often called to do radical things and we celebrate Joanna’s faithfulness and obedience to serve in a place many dare not go.  We ask the Chirilagua family to be in prayer for her safety while she is away.  We know she will have incredible things to teach us upon her return.

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.