Thank you. Gracias. Mèsi. Obrigada.
None of these words are truly enough. Not a single one, or all combined, can convey my gratitude for the privilege and the blessing of these last 50 years.
When my fellow Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and I landed in Central Florida with our “hearts as wide as the world” we did not know what to expect. We only knew the mission of our order, to make known God’s goodness, and our desire to live our faith through action and love. What we found was a community hungry for belonging, ready for change, and full of joy, inspiration, and HOPE.
It started with getting to know our neighbors and children playing in our front yard, volunteering at the schools, and joining community meetings. We helped to build a clinic, affordable housing, the farmworkers association, and a credit union. We stood alongside individuals as they fought courageously and tenaciously for a food stamp office, paved roads, streetlights, water service, and regular trash pickups, the kinds of things most of us take for granted as part of living in a city or town we call home.
It hasn’t always been easy. But with your continued support, trust in us, and faith in our work, we have helped change the landscape of Central Florida, and, more importantly, we have helped to change thousands and thousands of lives. So you can understand why “thank you,” “gracias,” “mèsi,” and “obrigada,” do not feel like enough.
As Hope and the communities we work with move into the next 50 years, we must look to a new generation of leaders to further our progress and move us forward. Enter Hope’s new Executive Director, Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet, a blessing who has come full circle. As a youth activist leader marching in the “Trail of Dreams” Felipe has the lived experience to continue the march for social justice, equity, and belonging that started 50 years ago in South Apopka with a small group of nuns in a little house at the end of a cul-de-sac on S. Central Avenue.