Chance Meeting Helps Charles Hall Youth Services Create ‘Sound Garden’

Charles Hall Youth Services staff unpack the equipment.

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.

A youth resident at Charles hall enjoys one of the new guitars.

“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.

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Good morning! Today is the final day of the CHHSM 83rd Annual Gathering! As with the first two days, today is packed with speakers, preachers, and workshops you won’t want to miss, including the Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk, who brings us the Word during closing worship this afternoon!The virtual doors open today at 10:30 a.m. and the day begins with a Grounding at 11 with the Rev. Julie Jennings and the Rev. Susan Drake, who will give us time to center through music and song.Today’s three Workshop options, from 11:30am-12:30pm Eastern, include:What Will Stewardship and Fundraising Look Like Post-Covid? with Charles Buck, Kent Siladi, Matt Wagner, Jacqueline Owen, and Andrew Warner; Escaping Martyrdom: Avoiding Burnout While Heeding the Call with the Rev. Brandyn Simmons; and There is Reason to Have Hope: A Public Health Response to Racism with the Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry.This afternoon’s closing plenary features a keynote from community organizer, chaplain, and educator the Rev. Dr. Dietra Wise Baker at 1:30 p.m..Closing Worship follows at 3 p.m. with the Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk, as we bring our three days of healing, teaching, inspiring, and sharing to a close. ... See MoreSee Less
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