Faces of Hope
ACLAMO Hosts its second Annual "Faces of Hope" Breakfast Fundraiser
By: Louisa Shepard
As a 5th-grader Maritza Soriano didn't like school, struggling for her "C" average. She reluctantly started attending an after-school program at ACLAMO Family Centers in Norristown, thinking it could offer her nothing. But she quickly changed her mind. Now 12-year-old Maritza is an “A” student at East Norriton Middle School. She credits the one-on-one support she received at ACLAMO, especially homework help from the college-student mentors, for turning her around. "When I started, I hated math," Maritza said, "but with their help, math is now my favorite subject!" Today she is a mentor to younger children in the program. "I want to give back" said Maritza. "When I grow up, I want to work with children. I want to be a teacher or a doctor."
Maritza told her story to the more than 200 professionals and supporters attending ACLAMO's second-annual fundraiser last week, "Faces of Hope," a breakfast held at the Jeffersonville Golf Club in Norristown. The event raised more than $17,000, and there are hopes that more pledges will arrive in the weeks to come.
ACLAMO is in its 35th year of providing economic, educational, health and cultural opportunities to the low-income, mostly Spanish-speaking communities in Norristown and Pottstown. ACLAMO stands for Accíon Comunal Latino Americano de Montgomery County.
“The economy has made fundraising more challenging for non-profits, and donations are more critical than ever,” said Juan Guerra, ACLAMO executive director. "Everyone is feeling the effects, yet people continue to be generous in their support.”
Funding is needed for the many programs ACLAMO offers, including an early childhood education and literacy program for 20 preschoolers and their parents, called Even Start. While the 3- and 4-year-old children are learning English and kindergarten readiness, their parents are studying English, computer and parenting skills. In addition, the after-school program serves 50 children in kindergarten through seventh grades, providing a healthy snack and homework help in a safe, fun environment. Students from Ursinus, Bryn Mawr, Cabrini, and Eastern University tutor and mentor the children.
Speaking at the event, Maryanne Hoskins, Principal of Whitehall Elementary School in Norristown, described her involvement with ACLAMO started more than 10 years ago. She said the children who participate in ACLAMO’s programs are measurably better prepared for kindergarten and beyond. Their parents also benefit from the program. By learning English and life skills, they can be more successful, and in turn help their children and their families.
Ines Hernandez, knew very little English when she started coming to ACLAMO with her children, four-year-old Mayren and six-year-old Jeiffer. Ines spoke, in English, during the breakfast, to the room filled nearly to capacity. "We are encouraged to see ourselves as the primary educators of our children," said Hernandez, while Mayren affectionately clung to her side. “My son Jaiffer has received three academic awards from his teachers. This fills us with joy and we understand the great support offered by the program.”
ACLAMO provides services to anyone who asks, with social workers helping mostly Spanish-speaking neighborhood residents navigate the details of life. As the only bilingual full service and education center in Montgomery County, ACLAMO often is their only resource.
Jimmy Murray, former general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles and a founder of the Ronald McDonald House, said ACLAMO’s mission is unique and important. “The greatest thing about ACLAMO is that it doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk,” said Murray, a member of ACLAMO’s board of directors, who was the keynote speaker. “ACLAMO really is the heart of the community.”
A special thanks go out to Robert J. Kerns, Esq, from Kerns, Pearlstine, Onorato and Hladik, LLP, Law Offices of Cullen and Conwell and Joanna Cruz, Esq for underwriting the cost of this event.
Also thank you to Garry Wasserson for providing our audio visual support and Erinn Aloi of A Fresh Focus Photography for her photographing the breakfast.
Click here to view photos of this event.