Every year, alumni return to Casa Teresa to reconnect with each other and the Casa community at our annual reunion. For many years, this reunion has provided a fun and family-filled event for the entire Casa Teresa community. This year’s event, held this past September, was no exception: the soaring temperatures did not stop over 65 alumni and 100 children from having a blast at the carnival-themed reunion complete with a bounce house, caricature artist, face painting, and photo booth. Among all the fun and excitement, the reunion served to inspire our alumni to recognize their own strengths and to continue building a family mindset.
With so many alumni gathered, the reunion was an opportunity to communicate to our alumni that they now have a dedicated program and case manager providing them support and service. Our alumni case manager, Nichole Fontanoza, provided an overview of the program and opportunities for engagement, emphasizing the importance of paying it forward. Nichole acknowledged that given the traumatic experiences and challenges they have faced, they may find themselves focusing on the negative. Even as Casa Teresa graduates, they don’t always see their internal greatness or credit themselves with the strength and determination they needed to overcome these challenges.
Nichole encouraged them to self-reflect on the strengths within each and every one of them, pointing out areas they exhibit greatness but may not realize it. Have you noticed that you inspire current Casa Teresa moms who look up to you, or that you’ve dedicated yourself to raising your child and building a family? Have you shown consistent support to a friend who has also experienced trauma? Nichole challenged alumni to recognize their own unique gifts, particularly their strong position to speak to the lives of current Casa Teresa moms, who consistently lean in and are all ears when they hear from alumni. The alumni have been in their shoes, even lived in the room they now live in! This creates a special role alumni can fill as mentor and model to current Casa Teresa moms.
So that our staff could engage with alumni and their families during the reunion, we relied on countless volunteers to make the event run smoothly. Below we highlight just a handful of our many volunteers who went above and beyond to make sure this was a fun and memorable day for all. Thank you for allowing our staff to come out from behind the scenes to build relationships and reconnect with alumni, and for demonstrating to our alumni that the community, including Casa Teresa volunteers, can be part of their support system. You are all part of the “village” – family, friends, and community – that we all need to raise children and families!
- Cathy Steinman, our very own Casa Teresa “baby whisperer,” has been providing love and care to our precious Casa babies for over 10 years as a volunteer babysitter. Kathy and her sisters hosted a lovely desserts table with Sprinkles cupcakes
- St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church’s Respect Life ministry donated six beautiful raffle baskets each with a different theme. One favorite was a “family time” basket with everything a mom needs for a family night in cooking, baking, and playing board games. The Knights of Columbus of St. Martin’s also provided snow cones!
- Crean Lutheran High School generously donated drinks and ice
- Freedomhouse Church in Fullerton provided face painting and also invited alumni to register for their upcoming women’s conference
- Third Step, a spiritual ministry that specializes in women’s events, also did outreach highlighting their women-focused events
- Northeast of the Well, the ministry that provides our weekly alumni Bible study, opened the reunion with prayer and worship, playing familiar songs our Casa mothers and alumni all love and recognize
- Mother/daughter teams from National Charity League Orange/Villa Park provided a fun fishing booth for kids and families
- Michelle Hernandez from Hillsong Orange County generously donated a bounce house
- Jonathan Aguilar provided a photo booth station to help all alumni and family members capture the fun and memories of the day
Thank you to everyone who was part of this special day. We are already looking forward to next year’s reunion!