For Tomi Cimarosti, UCC-related Charles Hall Youth Services’ residential director, angels can be found anywhere, including local pawn shops.
“The at-risk youth we serve most often come from dysfunctional family backgrounds, where they did not receive the nurturing and guidance necessary for personal growth and successful development,” says Rhonda Styles-Rhode, director of marketing and communication for the Bismarck, N.D., CHHSM member. “Youth enter Charles Hall and the foster care service network with significant levels of emotional and social impairment, most often due to trauma resulting from neglect and/or abuse. This makes their development of positive relationships very difficult.”
To help them build bridges of trust, Charles Hall staff envisioned creating a “sound garden” — a place where youth can appreciate, experience, and learn in a musical setting.
“Music transcends culture and age, providing musically-inclined youth and staff a huge opportunity to connect,” says Dan Foster, director of programs at Charles Hall.
Although the agency’s budget doesn’t allow for building such an environment, employees were determined to start pulling equipment together. So the second week of April found Cimarosti visiting local pawn shops trying to find some second-hand items for the sound garden. As she told a shop owner about the plan, another shopper approached her.
“You looking for a keyboard?” he asked.
Cimarosti explained that she was, mentioning that the regular music store in the area was beyond Charles Hall’s budget. “We are just looking for something simple,” she told him.
“If you go [to the music store] now, I’ll get you three [keyboards],” the man replied.
After recovering from her initial shock, Cimarosti met Charles Hall’s newest benefactor at the local retail establishment. “He started picking out all kinds of amazing things for our music garden,” she says.
In total, the musical angel “purchased five new guitars, three new electric keyboards, plus all the accessories” for the youth, says Styles-Rhode. “This donation allowed the agency to offer musical instruments to our youth much more quickly than we anticipated. We are still designing the details of the program!”
With the jumpstart provided by the musical instruments, staff members are imagining what the sound garden can become. Eventually they “want to include a modest recording studio so that we can take the music that the youth create and give them something that they can have that is real and tangible — a recording,” Styles-Rhode adds, “something they can listen to, and learn from, long after they leave our care.”
The angel requested anonymity, something that only increased the staff’s deep appreciation for his donation. For Cimarosti, the only word she can think of is “blessed.”
“We are blessed by people like him, his family and so many others who do so much for our kids and our agency as a whole,” she says.