Wilmington’s Chuck Selvaggio and his nonprofit are improving conditions in the impoverished Central American country
Chuck Selvaggio, a former teacher at Salesianum School and Nativity Preparatory School of Wilmington, traveled to Nicaragua to learn Spanish in 2011. Fortunately, the trip turned into something much more.
He was immediately struck not only by the rampant poverty and the number of homeless youth, but also by the resilience of the Nicaraguan people. Upon returning home, he created the charity Neighbors to Nicaragua in April of that same year, and he recruited friends, family members, and former colleagues to volunteer their time and money to support grassroots organizations working to improve the education and infrastructure of the communities he had visited.
Today, Selvaggio is the executive director of the charity, in addition to working as a full-time massage therapist from his home studio in Wilmington.
Selvaggio and his charity quickly began the process of supporting several Nicaraguan schools by raising money for supplies and medicine. His efforts also resulted in Americans sponsoring children of promise by funding their education, giving a strong chance to worthy students who otherwise would never have had the opportunity to get a decent education.
“I have never met someone as selfless as Chuck, and I’m inspired by his amazing example of how one person can make a difference in the lives of so many,” says Michael Lucey, co-owner of Hockessin’s Six Paupers, Brandywine Hundred’s Ulysses Gastro Pub and the Rehoboth Beach Forgotten Mile Ale House. Lucey experienced the deplorable conditions in Nicaragua first-hand on a trip with Selvaggio, and like many others was inspired by his example. As a result, Lucey became a member of the Board of Trustees for Neighbors to Nicaragua.
The scope and focus of the organization has grown since its inception in 2011. Its most recent accomplishment was the completion of a new school on Jan. 30. The project originated with Board Chairperson Alison Warhol, a scrum master in the Technology Department at Barclays Bank. She recognized the need and potential the school could provide to locals ranging in ages 5 to 50. Selvaggio and Warhol oversaw the completion of the school, called Centro de Oportunidad (Center of Opportunity), which will train students in vocational skills, math and computer competency. Along with six other board members, they attended the opening of the school.
“Our goal for the students at Centro de Oportunidad is to provide them with sufficient basic skills to either continue with a traditional education or to gain employable skills through experience,” says Selvaggio.
In addition to the educational support, the school also will provide lunch-time meals, which for most of the students may be the only meal they receive all day.
The school was completed thanks to a $30,000 donation by Rockefeller Philanthropy Trust, and the annual budget of $35,000 is currently paid by the Matthew Haley Trust.
“Grassroots donations are the lifeblood of Neighbors to Nicaragua, and the growth of our support base determines the continued success of our mission,” says Selvaggio, who explains that no volunteer or board member receives a salary, and all travel to the region is paid for by the volunteers themselves, so all donations go directly to Neighbors to Nicaragua.
The charity will host an Oldies Night concert at Wilmington Elks Lodge, 1310 Carruthers Dr., on Friday, March 2, from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person, or you can reserve a table of 10 for $350. All proceeds from ticket sales and donations will benefit Neighbors to Nicaragua. Each ticket includes two complimentary alcoholic beverages and buffet style fare. For reservations, contact Sarah Brooks at email@example.com or call 983-5794.
For more information on how you can help Neighbors to Nicaragua, visit the website, NeighborsToNicaragua.com, or the Facebook page.
Shawn Moran: Delivering meals and smiles for nearly three decades
During his 29 years as a volunteer for Meals On Wheels Delaware, Shawn Moran has not only delivered nutritious lunch-time meals to homebound seniors, he’s also made life a bit more pleasant for them.
“My smile may be the only one they see all day or all week,” says the 63-year-old Wilmington resident.
The people who rely on volunteers like Moran are seniors who want to remain in their own homes but are alone or disabled without anyone to prepare food for them or are unable to prepare a meal for themselves.
He is one of 800 on a rotation schedule who cover 65 delivery routes each weekday for City Fare, one of five meal delivery programs run by Meals On Wheels Delaware (MOWD). Last year, City Fare, which is based at St. Anthony’s Center in Wilmington, delivered about 300,000 meals throughout Wilmington and New Castle County. Statewide, the five programs delivered a total of 727,418 meals to 4,093 seniors ages 60 and over in 2016.
Moran’s employer, Patterson Schwartz Real Estate in Claymont, is part of a group of businesses that assist MOWD by allowing employees extra time during lunch breaks to deliver meals. Fourteen employees at his office participate in the program, although Moran has delivered meals longer than any of them.
One week a month he and his coworkers take turns delivering the meals. Moran usually goes on Mondays and takes any other day available during that week. He normally delivers to 12-22 seniors. “I love doing it,” he says. “I have no intention of stopping. It makes me feel good to be able to help.”
Moran first stops at the Claymont Senior Center to pick up coolers containing hot meals of fish or beef, fruit, veggies, milk and dessert. Then he heads to the communities of Bellefonte and Claymont, where he’s delivered meals since 1988.
Sometimes a visit turns out to be more than dropping off a meal. Moran has called 911 on two occasions, once when he found a woman at the bottom of the stairs with a broken leg, and another time when he discovered a woman with a compound fracture of her foot. He also checks simple things such as the heat or air conditioning. On a cold winter day, he bought a bag of salt and sprinkled it on a walkway at the home of a senior he delivered to. She thanked him with cookies.
“Volunteers are the heart of each (meal delivery) program,” says Anne Love, executive director of MOWD. “The nutritious meal, friendly volunteer visit and safety checks help our seniors cope with three of the biggest threats of aging: hunger, isolation, and loss of independence.”
More volunteers are desperately needed to deliver meals, especially in the Claymont and New Castle area, says Erica Porter Brown, project director for City Fare. “We are short each day about 15 routes.”
For Moran, volunteering is part of his life and something he looks forward to. “It’s an immediate impact that I don’t want to miss.”
Led by the indefatigable Brother Ronald Giannone, the Ministry of Caring has spearheaded dozens of charitable projects aimed at the under-served. This month, it launches another: The $22 million Village of St. John.
Brother Ronald Giannone established the Ministry of Caring in Wilmington in 1977 with a house, purchased for $5,000, that became a shelter for homeless women.
But that was just a start. Giannone has always been a big thinker, and over the intervening 40 years, he has grown the ministry into a charity that runs 20 programs in 29 buildings throughout Wilmington, with an annual budget of about $11 million.
Childcare, dining rooms, emergency shelters, long-term and transitional housing for the homeless, for senior citizens, for men and women suffering from AIDS and HIV: If there’s a need, the Ministry of Caring is there to fill it. Throughout those four decades, Giannone has been guided by the ministry’s basic principle: “The poor should not be treated poorly.”
This month, the charity will launch another massive project—the transformation of the former Cathedral Church of St. John, a landmark in Wilmington’s Brandywine Village for more than 150 years, into a residential complex designed to serve moderate and low-income seniors and the working poor, age 62 and older.
Early in December, the ministry will go to settlement and close the deal to purchase the cathedral complex from the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware for $651,800—a steep discount from the original asking price of $1.7 million. A grant from the Longwood Foundation will cover the purchase price.
Following a groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 15, construction will begin, says Priscilla Rakestraw, the ministry’s director of development. The project, dubbed the Village of St. John, now carries a $22 million price tag, and all but $2 million has been raised, primarily through a combination of grants from foundations and businesses, the state, Wilmington and New Castle County governments, and a variety of tax credits available for developing low-income housing and restoring historic sites.
Ready by 2019
The goal, Rakestraw says, is to have 53 apartments—a combination of efficiencies and 1- and 2-bedroom units—ready for occupancy by about 80 residents by December 2019. Seventeen units will be created within the church and the adjoining dean’s house. The other 36 will be in a new three-story building on the southwest side of the 2.6-acre property.
The project represents not only a repurposing of a 19th-century structure to meet 21st-century needs, but also an opportunity to spur a revitalization of Brandywine Village, which has battled a steady decline over the past 40 years.
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be part of this project,” says Kevin Wilson, a principal of Architectural Alliance, which has handled all the design work. “We’re preserving history and we’re anchoring the neighborhood.”
Brandywine Village had a history as a bustling neighborhood dating to the Revolutionary era, when the Green Tree Tavern occupied the corner of Market Street and Concord Avenue. In 1856 Alexis I. du Pont, son of the founder of the DuPont Co., chose the corner as the site for a new Episcopal church. A year later, as construction was beginning, du Pont suffered fatal burns while trying to rescue workers from an explosion at his family’s powder mill on the Brandywine. While on his death bed, Rakestraw says, he changed his will to ensure that there would be sufficient funds to complete the church.
Construction projects in 1885, 1919 and 1952 added a parish hall, a parsonage and a spacious kitchen as the congregation grew and the complex became the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware.
A Neighborhood in Decline
More recently, the neighborhood, once home to trendy restaurants and hardware and paint stores, fell into decline. Its most prominent businesses now are a Dollar General, a couple of fast food outlets and some liquor stores. Meanwhile, the church’s membership declined, and the shrinking congregation didn’t have the resources to maintain the aging buildings. Church members eventually joined other congregations, the diocese moved its offices to Brandywine Hundred and the complex was put up for sale.
Eighty-five-year-old Edie Menser, a longtime parishioner who remembers first visiting the church when she was 4, recalls “Christmas Eve services with trumpets blowing” and choir members heading across the street to Hearn’s Restaurant for breakfast between the two services on Easter morning.
“I was married here, my children were married here, my great-grandchildren were baptized here. Those memories are precious,” she says. “I would have loved for the church to have stayed open, but it’s going to be used, and that’s important.”
With the apartments bringing new residents into the area, existing businesses in Brandywine Village should benefit, and others should be encouraged to locate there, Giannone says. “If you put $22 million toward a project, you’re going to change the neighborhood for the better.”
The restoration and renovation project will preserve both existing buildings’ exterior, including the stained glass windows in the cathedral and chapel. The new building, Wilson says, “has been designed to be harmonious with the church,” using the same stone and the same finishes, “but its massing will be simpler” so it won’t diminish the prominence of the church.
While matching the church’s early Gothic style, the new building will incorporate contemporary features to maximize its energy efficiency, including rooftop solar panels for heating hot water.
Since the granite for the church was quarried in nearby Alapocas, finding matching stone proved somewhat of a challenge, Wilson says. A local supplier, the Delaware Brick Co., located not only a dark gray granite that matches most of the existing church but also some oxidized stone that looks much like portions of the church exterior that have acquired a reddish tint over the years.
Changes on the Inside
“We met with both the state and the city historic preservation folks, and they all agreed it was a good match,” Wilson says.
Also being preserved are two engraved marble plaques, honoring Alexis I. du Pont and his wife, Joanna, for their roles in the church’s construction.
But there will be significant changes to the interior.
While the small chapel will be maintained for interdenominational worship, the cathedral’s sanctuary will be transformed into a common area, a wide-open gathering space for residents to meet, relax, play cards and enjoy group activities. The hand-carved pews in the cathedral are in excellent condition, and the ministry hopes to find a church in the area that could use them, Rakestraw says.
The large kitchen on the main floor will be ripped out and replaced by a combination kitchen/café.
The greatest challenge will be in repurposing the numerous classrooms and offices that line the hallways on the west side of the cathedral.
Some of the rooms are large enough to be envisioned as two-bedroom units with an open design. “I’d want this one for myself,” Rakestraw says as she guides visitors into a bright and airy second-floor space that once was used for choir rehearsals.
But the size and placement of many of the offices and classrooms can lead to design challenges or surprising results. “We have to carefully design spaces to keep their unique architectural features, like the ornate woodwork in the ceilings and walls,” Wilson says. In several places, stone fireplaces surrounded by wood panels will become the focal point of a new resident’s living room.
In addition to the changes inherent in transforming offices into apartments, structural improvements are also needed. For example, century-old leaded glass windows will be removed and replaced with energy-efficient frames and glass.
The construction of the new building will create a more or less triangular courtyard in the area between the structures, a place Rakestraw expects to become popular with residents as a picnic ground or for outdoor conversations.
As part of the purchase, Rakestraw says, the ministry is acquiring a parking lot on the north side of
Concord Avenue that runs from the rear of businesses on Market Street west to Tatnall Street. Residents and visitors will be able to use the lot, and there also will be a group of handicap parking spaces along the semicircular driveway at the Tatnall Street entrance to the complex.
“The best part of this,” Rakestraw says, “will be the security—24 hours a day, on site. It’s not going to be a place that people can run in and out of.”
The construction marks a continuation of the ministry’s steady growth under Giannone, whose leadership has led to more than a score of projects aimed at housing, feeding and employing the poor.
It began in early 1977, when Giannone, recently assigned to the St. Francis Priory off Silverside Road in Brandywine Hundred, confessed his disappointment to his superior that work at the retreat house didn’t give him the opportunity to help the poor. “What’s stopping you?” his superior replied, and soon he was on the phone and knocking on the door of state social service agencies trying to find out where help was most needed.
He learned of homeless women sleeping under bridges in Wilmington and grandparents caring for infants and toddlers because their parents were in prison.
“That was my baptism by fire to conditions on the East Side of Wilmington,” he says.
He found a home for sale for $7,500 on North Van Buren Street, talked the price down to $5,000, rounded up donations to pay for it, enlisted the support of volunteers and other religious orders, and opened the Mary Mother of Hope House for homeless women. Since then the Capuchin Franciscan friar has built an operation that, among other things, serves 170,000 meals a year at its three dining rooms and provides care for 153 at-risk children at three centers in the city.
The Mary Mother of Hope House was followed by the first Emmanuel Dining Room in 1979 and the second three years later. In 1983, the ministry opened the Mary Mother of Hope transitional residence for single women and Mary Mother of Hope House II, an emergency shelter for homeless women with children.
Two years later came a job placement center and House of Joseph I, an emergency shelter for homeless employable men. The third Emmanuel Dining Room opened in 1987, followed in 1989 by a distribution center, which provides free clothing, home supplies and furniture for people in need.
The St. Clare Van, a health services outreach collaboration with St. Francis Hospital, was launched in 1992, the year the first childcare center opened.
In 1995, three more programs were launched: St. Francis Transitional Residence, providing housing for homeless women and their children; a dental clinic and a Samaritan Center, which helps the poor and homeless with housing referrals, case management, hygienic services and other supports.
From 1997 to 2000, four more housing initiatives were created: House of Joseph II, a permanent residence for homeless people living with AIDS; Nazareth House I and II, transitional housing for families; and Sacred Heart Village I, 78 one-bedroom apartments for the elderly.
Next came Bethany House I, in 2002, providing long-term housing for women with disabilities, and Il Bambino, in 2003, an infant care program for the poor, working poor and homeless.
In 2007, the ministry opened Maria Lorenza Longo House, a long-term residence for single women, followed in 2010 by Padre Pio House, a long-term residence for men with disabilities.
The Mother Teresa House, providing affordable independent housing with supportive services to low-income men and women disabled by HIV/AIDS, opened in 2011, along with the Josephine Bakhita House, a residence for recent college graduates dedicating a year to service of the poor and hungry.
Bethany House II, also serving women with disabilities, opened in 2014.
The ministry’s most recent venture, Sacred Heart Village II, opened earlier this year to provide housing for low-income seniors on Wilmington’s East Side.
Many of those projects, Giannone says, had significant support from MBNA, one of the first banks to prosper in Delaware after passage of the Financial Center Development Act in 1981, and the generosity of the late Charles M. Cawley, who started the credit-card bank in 1982.
Cawley “wanted the bank to have a social conscience,” and one of his early moves was to hire Francis X. Norton, a former leader of social programs in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, and then “assigned him to work with me,” Giannone says.
“Charlie became very hands-on. I would tell him how much money we would need, and he would support us,” Giannone says.
That relationship led to, among other things, construction of the Guardian Angel Child Care on Wilmington’s East Side and the development of Sacred Heart Village I on the grounds of a former Catholic Church in the Trinity Vicinity neighborhood.
In addition to funding multiple projects, Cawley instilled a culture of community service at MBNA that generated a stream of dependable volunteers for the ministry, Giannone says.
Now 67, the Bronx native shows no signs of slowing down—and neither does his ministry.
“I’ll be here as long as God gives me life and my superiors allow,” he says.
And the Village of St. John, with its strong foundation and granite walls, will be around even longer.
The Ministry of Caring has ongoing needs for volunteers, including assisting at its childcare centers, helping with food preparation and service at its dining rooms, helping with activities for senior citizens and sorting donated clothing or assembling hygiene kits at its Samaritan Outreach Center.
Details on volunteering are available at ministryofcaring.org.
The ministry is currently running a drive for food and necessities that are essential to serving the poor. The Emmanuel Dining Room needs large family-size containers of vegetables, pasta, spaghetti sauce, fruit, cereal, beans, pancake mix, syrup, oatmeal and tuna fish. DART prepaid passes enable the ministry’s shelter residents to seek employment, and gift cards from local grocery stores enable the dining room and shelters to purchase emergency provisions. The shelters for homeless men, women and women with small children need canned/packaged nonperishable foods and paper products, as well as new or gently used coats, towels, twin-size blankets and sheet sets. Monetary donations are also accepted.
To arrange donations, contact: ReeNee at 652-3228 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Priscilla at 652-5523 (email@example.com).
Offshoot of nonprofit Challenge Program offers standardized but distinctive pieces, appealing to more residential and commercial clients
Trainees of the Challenge Program—a Wilmington-based nonprofit that provides construction and life-skills training for Delaware’s at-risk youth—are known for creating custom pieces for area establishments. Think honeygrow, the bar tops at all Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen locations, other local restaurants and some Philadelphia companies.
Now, helmed by founder and Executive Director Andrew McKnight, the organization is entering a new phase with an offshoot program called CP Furniture. Distinctive, handcrafted pieces are being standardized and incorporated into this new furniture line, opening the door for residential and commercial clients—and more clients in general—verses the custom piece approach.
“We decided that with a line of furniture, focusing more on manufacturing and less on custom work, we could better utilize our workforce and increase margins and profits,” says McKnight, who explains that all profits will go directly back into the Challenge Program.
By standardizing design, CP Furniture can bring in graduates of the six-month Challenge Program and offer them fulltime positions with benefits. McKnight describes a CP Furniture position as a transition job from the Challenge Program into entry level outside employment.
McKnight says the CP Furniture pieces are premium quality, so customers can expect a higher price point (Prices were not available at O&A press time). Depending on the piece, the furniture is made with custom fabric, hand-tied springs—all handmade and of the best quality, he says.
Right now, he’s focusing on the Mid-Atlantic region, but in the future, national orders aren’t out of the question. Visit cpfurniture.org to see options like sit-stand desks for the office or at home, tables, seating—like the contemporary Lillian Chair available in walnut, cherry, oak, birch and maple—entertainment consoles, side tables and more.
“I hope we do better than break-even,” says McKnight. “I hope we become a thing. We’re manufacturing furniture, employing significantly more grads. We want to create a buzz around it and market it and make money to put back into program.”
Aurora Colin: Preserving Mexican culture through dance
Growing up in Mexico, Aurora Colin discovered her love of dancing at age 12. Performing in front of large crowds, she would twirl her colorful, layered red dress while her black shoes stomped to the rhythms of “El Jarabe Tapatio,” or, as it’s known in the U.S., “The Mexican Hat Dance.”
Now 44, Colin is still dancing. In 2014, she and Teresa Ayala founded Ballet Folklórico Mexico Lindo to stay in touch with the songs and culture of Mexico. The group started with six children and eight adults, and now numbers 47 people, ages 4 to 60.
The group gives Hispanic youth and their families a positive, creative outlet. They average about 30 performances a year at local churches, festivals, schools, and private parties, and have also performed in New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey. The group relies on donations from performances to help families purchase costumes, accessories, and dresses directly from Mexico.
Colin is an instructor as well as a dancer in the group. She studied dance at the Escuela Bellas Artes in Mexico City and performed throughout Mexico. She also worked as a school teacher in Mexico before moving to Delaware 15 years ago with her husband and her son. For the past 10 years, she has worked as a nanny in Wilmington, where she lives. Colin also offers free two-hour dance lessons every Wednesday and Friday at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Wilmington.
Her son, Miguel, was a member of Folklórico Mexico Lindo before he moved to New York City to study political science at Columbia University. Her husband, Marco, is the group’s DJ.
Last year, the Delaware Hispanic Awards recognized Ballet Folklórico as the best folklórico dance group in Delaware.
When she was 17, Margaret Rivera volunteered to help a homebound child who was paralyzed from the neck down. Rivera massaged her hands, her feet, told her about school and read to her. More than five decades later, Rivera is still volunteering.
“It’s in my DNA,” says the Wilmington resident. “When growing up, I saw the challenges people have and I thought about how I can turn it around to help them solve it.”
Rivera, who retired last year from AstraZeneca as manager of Affirmative Action and EEO Compliance, received the 2013 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for Education, the 2010 AstraZeneca Jefferson Award for Public Services and the 2007 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for social/justice/advocacy.
The native of New Jersey is a founding member of ASPIRA of Delaware, a non-profit organization that helps Latino students move beyond a high school education to college. She also helped start Las Americas ASPIRA Academy Charter School, the first dual language school in Delaware. The K-8 school in Newark opened in 2011 with more than 300 students. (In Spanish, aspira means to aspire.) The national organization originated in New York in 1961.
Without ASPIRA, many students would not know what educational and financial options are available to them, Rivera says. She joined ASPIRA in 2003 when the Delaware organization was known as Friends of ASPIRA. Many Latino youths in the state were not pursuing college at all at that time, she says.
Due in part to ASPIRA, the dropout rate of Latino students is declining. According to the Delaware Department of Education, it went from 3.2 percent in the 2014-2015 school year to 2.2 percent in 2015-2016.
“I would not be where I am if it were not for Margaret Rivera,” says Maria Velasquez. Before meeting Rivera, the 27-year-old, who now lives in Philadelphia, never imagined attending an Ivy League university. Today she is a first-year MBA student at the University of Pennsylvania. “Margie encouraged me to apply,” she says.
To maximize its efforts, ASPIRA’s collaborators include community volunteers and institutions such as the Latin American Community Center, Girls Inc., Del Tech Community College and United Way.
Rivera remains on the ASPIRA board and volunteers as chair of the Development and Communications Committee. And she is still an advisor to students in the Saturday Academy program.
The Farmer & The Chef marks 10 years of raising funds for perinatal nonprofit March of Dimes
Local farmers and chefs are pairing up once again to prepare something delicious for a good cause.
Thursday, Sept. 14, will be a milestone for March of Dimes’ annual fundraiser The Farmer & The Chef, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. Ticket proceeds go directly to the mission of the March of Dimes—improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality through advanced studies and research.
At the fundraiser, which begins at 5:45 p.m., farmers will provide locally-grown ingredients to the chefs, who then prepare tasting samples for event attendees. Ingredients are sourced from Against The Grain Farm, Bright Spot Farms, Fair Weather Farm at Fair Hill and Fifer’s, among others. The farms will team up with area favorites like Greg Vogeley of Drip Café, Robbie Jester of Stone Balloon Ale House, Jim Mitchell of Woodside Creamery and more. Last year’s winners include chefs Kip Poole, Matthew Vaugh, Ian Baker, and students from William Penn High School with Penn Farm/Against the Grain Farm. The event raised $82,000. The goal of this year is $85,000.
Overall, in the past 10 years The Farmer & The Chef has raised more than $700,000 for the nonprofit. And though fundraising is the most important component of the event, the communal aspect also helps foster sustainable relationships between local farmers and chefs while reinforcing the movement of eating healthy—a cause that March of Dimes promotes especially to women who are considering pregnancy. Since agriculture is such an important industry in Delaware, event founders also believe it’s vital to support area farmers and remind the public that fresh, local produce is available.
Says Laura Klatzkin, senior development manager at March of Dimes Delaware Market: “For 10 years we have had the opportunity to provide a great event by partnering with local farmers, chefs and sponsoring companies helping us to further our mission of giving every baby a healthy start.”
To mark the occasion, Klatzkin says, a diamond necklace from Del Haven of Wilmington will be raffled off. Raffle tickets will be available during the event.
General admission tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door. To beat the crowds, get a Chef’s Pass ticket (limited availability) for $75; it allows early entry at 5 p.m. and includes one complimentary drink ticket and an exclusive gift. For more, visit thefarmerandthechef.com.
Deb Buenaga: Helping children with special needs through Preston’s March for Energy
In August 2011 Deb Buenaga’s son, Preston, who suffers from Mitochondrial Disease, received a specially-adaptive bike from a family friend’s fundraiser. The bicycle cost a hefty $2,200.
“When Preston rode his bike for the first time, for an hour and a half, his dad Steve and I knew that other children deserved the same opportunity,” says Buenaga. “We knew that we needed to ‘pay it forward.’”
This motivated her to launch Preston’s March for Energy just two months later, while still juggling fulltime caretaking responsibilities for Preston. She quit her job as a preschool teacher and now dedicates upwards of 50 hours a week to the cause, and while she qualified for a Longwood Foundation grant for an administrative assistant, Buenaga herself makes approximately $5 an hour. She is backed up by 30-35 active volunteers.
The nonprofit provides adaptive bikes to children and young adults ages 6 to 21 with special needs who can’t ride a typical bike. Each adaptive bicycle is built and customized for the individual who will ride it. Preston’s March works with various bike vendors, raising money for families through events like Corks and Cookies, a yearly 5K, and corporate and individual sponsors, since insurance does not cover the cost of an adaptive bike. A family will apply through the website—prestonsmarch.org—and Preston’s March will collaborate with that child’s medical team to create the perfect bike, down to painting the bicycle the child’s favorite color.
“Today I was incredibly blessed to be able to make a child smile who has thyroid and lung cancer,” says Buenaga. “But he also has a dream to ride a bike like his brother and sister and friends. He cannot ride a typical bike because sitting up and balancing makes him tired and with a tracheotomy he has troubles breathing. I presented him with a bike that he can lie down with and pedal with his feet. He told his mom to Velcro him in his bike so nobody can take him off it.”
Buenaga and her family spend their weekends or vacation time presenting bikes all over the country. Last month she and Preston road-tripped to Green Bay, Wis., to surprise a family with two bicycles. She and Preston have put 28,000 miles on a donated van in less than a year.
“We all open our eyes in the morning the same way—some of us not as easy as others,” she says. “Some may be suffering with a disease, some may be a caregiver and first thing they do is care for a loved one who needs them. But the one thing we have in common is to make it to the end of the day the best that we can. My choice is to go to bed every night and know I made someone smile.”
Classical Guitar Performance by Duo 220 Set for Feb. 25
Hailed for their technique and musicianship, classical guitarists Adam Larison and Andrew Stroud of Duo 220 have established a firm position in a newly emerging generation of guitar ensembles.
The Wilmington Classical Guitar Society is hosting a performance by the duo at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant (503 Duncan Rd., Wilmington) on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m.
Duo 220 strives to create programs that are new, fresh and accessible through a mixture of both standards and lesser-known works in the guitar duo. Admission is $10 for students, seniors and WCGS members and $15 for general admission, available at the door or online at wilmingtonguitar.org.
Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles
Join an intimate evening performance with Cory Henry and his band, The Funk Apostles, on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Clifford Brown Performance Center. Henry is a 29-year-old Brooklyn-born songwriter, organist, pianist and music producer well-versed in jazz, gospel and funk. He has toured with Bruce Springsteen, Michael McDonald, P. Diddy, Boyz II Men, Israel Houghton, Donnie McClurkin and Kirk Franklin and has released two albums, First Steps (2014) and The Revival (2016).
Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert begins promptly at 7:30. Early bird tickets are $20 through Feb. 5 and $30 after. Tickets are available at ccacde.org.
The Arts at Trinity
On Saturday, Feb. 18, at Trinity Episcopal Church (1108 N. Adams St., Wilmington), The Arts at Trinity presents a performance by the Mid-Atlantic Chamber Music Society as part of its 2016-2017 music series. Admission is free. Donations are accepted. The performance is at 7:30 p.m.
Open Mic Night
The Music School of Delaware hosts a bi-monthly open mic night on the second Thursday of every other month, beginning in February. On Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wilmington branch – 4104 Washington St.—the event will include professional-grade equipment for artists: drum set, grand piano, electric piano/synth, guitar/bass amplification available upon request, microphones, PA system and monitors. A complimentary recording of the performance is available to all participants as well as an after party. The event is free.
Thrones in the Round in Philly
The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience is coming to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Sunday, Feb. 26. It will mark the first time an orchestral concert like this will be performed in the round.
The performance is expected to be massive in terms of sound, size, and visuals, sure to mirror the Emmy-winning show’s stature. Innovative music tour production and video technology will take the audience through the seven kingdoms of the Game of Thrones universe.
The Travel Songs Foundation
Delaware band and creative organization Travel Songs recently established a nonprofit, The Travel Songs Foundation, and launched its first project: preserving instrument-making in Peru’s Andean region.
In 2013, the band—now foundation—broadened perspectives with a successful Kickstarter campaign that funded the group’s first award-winning documentary, Travel Songs: Peru.
Now, the Travel Songs Foundation takes things a step further, and is chartered under the Delaware Community Foundation with the mission to connect cultures through music. Funded by grants and tax-deductible donations from its supporters, the foundation fulfills its mission by producing documentaries and other multimedia about music and culture from around the world. Paired with each film project, the foundation identifies a critical need in a host country’s local music or culture and launches a charitable initiative.
The first initiative for the foundation launched mid-January in Cusco, Peru, and is called The Sabino Luthier School. While filming in Cusco in 2013, the team met and interviewed a Peruvian instrument maker named Sabino Huaman, who expressed a fear that his trade, which had been passed from generation to generation within his family for more than 100 years, would soon disappear.
In launching The Sabino Luthier School, the foundation hopes to help preserve this local art. By the end of this year-long intensive training course, students at the school will possess the general skills to be able to construct traditional Andean instruments, and will have the training to pursue building or repairing string instruments as a profession.
The project covers full day courses every Saturday in 2017, all travel and lodging for the students, a course instructor wage for Huaman, as well as the cost of all tools and materials. The Travel Songs Foundation will also provide equipment and training to a local videographer (Huaman’s son) to document the students’ progress throughout the year.
Mélomanie will present provocative pairings of early and contemporary works in innovative chamber music on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 4 p.m. at CAMP Rehoboth (37 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach) and on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 2 p.m. at The Delaware Contemporary (200 S. Madison St., Wilmington). Parking is free onsite and a reception follows the performance. These concerts feature the premier of “Just a Regular Child” by Delaware composer David Schelat and collaborations with two guest artists, violinist Daniela Pierson and cellist Todd Thiel. The repertoire also includes works by Couperin, Guignon, Bartók and Corelli.
General tickets are $25, and $15 for students ages 16 and older. For children through age 15 admission is free.
Purchase tickets online at melomanie.org, at the door, or at 764-6338.
Say farewell to cabin fever with this collection of classes, exhibitions, performing arts, and more
Ushering in post-holiday doldrums and cooped-up blues, winter is arguably one of the dreariest times of year. But fear not: we’ve compiled a list of fun indoor options to get you off the couch and out of the house. From concerts to children’s activities to beer-or-wine-and-yoga sessions (yes, you read that right), we’ve got every taste covered.
Floral Fun at Longwood Gardens
At Longwood Gardens, winter is far from bleary, thanks in part to the annual Orchid Extravaganza, on view this season free with Gardens admission from Jan. 23-March 27. The Conservatory transforms into a tropical oasis featuring Longwood’s largest and most diverse display of orchids ever.
For a personal challenge, try the Botanical Illustration Studio. Use your artistic skills to illustrate plants and flowers from Longwood’s greenhouses and grounds. The studio time gives you a chance to receive individual attention, constructive suggestions, and encouragement. Work at your own pace on your project, large or small, surrounded by fellow artists. This is a six-session course, on Mondays from 12:30-3 p.m., Jan 4-Feb. 8.
Johnny Gallagher at The Queen
Wilmington native Johnny Gallagher—musician, award-winning actor and Broadway performer—will come to World Cafe Live at The Queen on Friday, Jan. 22, to showcase his singer-songwriter skills.
His debut album, Six Day Hurricane, is set to be released Jan. 15 via Rockwood Music Hall Recordings. The first single of the album, “Two Fists Full,” is available through Soundcloud.
The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$25.
For those up for a jaunt to New York City, Gallagher can be seen on Broadway in the Roundabout Theater Company production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night starting in March.
The Musical Box: Recreation of Genesis’ Foxtrot
In 1972, the English rock band Genesis toured to promote their fourth album, Foxtrot. The first concert on the tour began a trend of combining music and theatre.
The Musical Box—a Sunday, Jan. 17, performance at the Grand’s Copeland Hall—undertakes the reproduction of the original concert to give people an illusion of being at the actual Genesis show. Visual reconstruction of the show is based on photos and slides of the original concerts, magazine articles and first-hand experiences. Tickets are $32-$39.
Cinderella at the baby grand
First State Ballet Theatre—Delaware’s professional ballet company—presents Cinderella, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20-21, at the baby grand in Wilmington. The classic fairy tale with the ultimate happy ending is told with wit and elegance. Tickets begin at $14 for students ages 18 and under. Senior, group and military discounts are available. The performance starts at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 21.
Wine, Cheese & Honey Pairings at Penns Woods Winery
Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford, Pa. is teaming up with local cheese and honey artisans to bring exclusive wine, cheese, and honey pairing events on select dates (Jan. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31). Indulge in a sit-down pairing of five premium Penns Woods wines matched with various cheeses and honey from local farms. Admission is $28; reservations are required. Live music is on Jan. 9, 16, 23, and 30 from 2-5 p.m.
Contact Penns Woods at 610-459-0808 to make a reservation.
Great Balls of Fire!
From Feb. 6-May 30, the Great Balls of Fire! exhibit at Delaware Museum of Natural History explores the pop culture fascination of a catastrophic impact from an asteroid or comet. If there was a dinosaur-killer in earth’s past, is there a human-killer in our future? The exhibit asks: What are the chances and how do we assess the risks? For that matter, what are asteroids, comets, and meteorites, and where do they come from?
Chicago—The Musical at The Playhouse Chicago – The Musical has it all: a universal tale of fame, fortune and “all that jazz,” one show-stopping song after another, and fantastic dancing. The award-winning show is coming to The Playhouse Feb. 23-28. Based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, it’s based on actual criminals and crimes she covered. A satire on corruption in the administering of criminal justice, the performance explores the concept of the “celebrity criminal.”
Poetry in Beauty: the Art of Marie Spartali Stillman
Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927), one of a small number of professional female artists working in the second half of the 19th century, was an important presence in the Victorian art world of her time and closely affiliated with members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. Poetry in Beauty, the first retrospective exhibit of Spartali Stillman’s work, runs through Jan. 31 at Delaware Art Museum. In addition to approximately 50 of her pieces, works from public and private collections in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, many of which have not been exhibited since Spartali Stillman died, will also be on view. After the exhibition, her art will be transported overseas and on view at the Watts Gallery in Guildford, England, through June 5.
Winter Classes & Fun at CCArts
Center for the Creative Arts in Yorklyn offers a bounty of fun and productive wintertime activities. First up, “Ballet for Adults” runs Tuesdays (10-11 a.m.) from Jan. 12-March 15. Study under Ballet Master Val Goncharov in these adult classes. Tuesdays (9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) from Jan. 12-March 1, try your hand at oil painting. Learn basic techniques through demonstrations, discussions and application. Tuition is $184 for members and $204 for non-members. For a one-day class on Saturday, Jan. 9, “Glass Fusion” (9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.) will explore the art of melting glass into designs to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Create a sun-catcher, pendant, tray or dish using glass that will be provided. Tuition is $40.
Additionally, try out “Yorklyn Live,” a CCArts Open Mic Night every third Thursday. It’s free, with a cash bar and food. Lastly, a Dinner Theater called “Blind Love” on Saturday, Feb. 6, is about how a blind man sees what a fool does not. People can come for dinner, drinks and dessert. The show is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets, which can be purchased online, are $35.
Call 239-2434 for more information about these activities.
Robots: they’ve explored the far reaches of space, the depths of oceans, and the inner workings of the human body. Now children ages 4-14 can explore robots themselves at Hagley’s Invention Convention, from Jan. 16-18.
The weekend includes robotic demonstrations, hands-on engineering challenges, and in-person conversations with professionals who use robots in their daily work. Visitors will discover how the Wilmington Police Department uses bomb robots to dispose of explosive devices, and guests also will take part in tinkering tables, create-an-invention fun, and a hands-on science fair. Invention Convention will be in Hagley’s Soda House and Library. Admission is $8 and $6 for children. Hagley members and children ages 4 and younger get in free.
Additionally, Hagley features the exhibit “Driving Desire: Automobile Advertising and the American Dream” through autumn. It explores the relationship between automobile advertising and Americans’ car buying decisions. Driving Desire is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Yoga in the Paradocx Tank Room
Uncork, relax and unwind at Paradocx Vineyard in Landenberg, Pa., on two Sundays—Jan. 10 and Jan. 24—for Yoga in the Tank Room at 11 a.m. Your focus will be drawn away from the everyday hustle and bustle with this unique yoga class in the winery tank room. Each class is designed to relax the mind—and open the senses to encourage a mindful wine-tasting experience. Tickets are $25, and the event includes a 60-minute yoga session with wine tastings of four wines to follow. (Bring your own yoga mat.)
Winterthur Book Club & Exhibition
Embrace learning and quality time at Winterthur’s Pages of Time: Mother & Daughter Book & Craft Club. On the first Thursday of each month through May, from 6-8 p.m., this is ideal for book worms and crafty girls in 4th-6th grade. Discussions will revolve around historical fiction books, and there will be tasty snacks and crafts related to the book each month. Tickets are $25 per member adult/child pair; $35 per nonmember pair for the complete seven-month series. Winter dates and books include: Jan. 7, Betsy Zane: The Rose of Fort Henry; Feb. 4, Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis and Clark; March 3, The Smuggler’s Treasure. Call 800-448-3883 to register and for more dates.
Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia, an exhibition running March 26-Jan. 8, 2017, examines the profound influence of Asia on the arts of colonial Americans. This scholarly exhibition is the first Pan-American study to explore how craftsmen across North, Central, and South America adapted Asian styles in a range of media—from furniture to silverwork, textiles, ceramics, and painting.
Delaware Theatre Company Acting Classes
Attention, aspiring actors: ready to take a step in the right direction? Have fun while exploring characters and scenes in a six-week course at Delaware Theatre Company, Sundays from Feb. 7-March 13 (5:15-7:15 p.m.). Take on the actor’s role of examining scripts, finding characters’ objectives, and exploring various acting techniques to bring out your richest performance. Though no experience is required, students should be ready to participate, to jump in and work together—and have fun. The course is $180, and open to adults ages 18 and up. Classes are also available for children and teens.
Touch Tank: Lunch and Learn
Join the Delaware Children’s Museum staff daily from 12:30-1:30 p.m. for feeding time at the Touch Tank Aquarium. Learn about the food marine creatures eat, the habitat they live in, and special facts about the vertebrates and invertebrates who share the tank. Or stop by Try Science: Be a Physiologist, Jan. 9-10, from 11 a.m. to noon, to learn about the body’s parts that work to keep it running. Children can become junior doctors or nurses as they take a hands-on and entertaining look at the organs and systems inside a very unusual patient—the DCM’s 7-ft. doll, Stuffee.
Beer & Yoga at Victory Brewpub
Victory Brewing Company’s Kennett Square brewpub is hosting Beer & Yoga on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 9 a.m. After the yoga session, enjoy food and beer pairings. Instructor Diane Rogers will guide participants through the yoga process. Tickets are $30.