La Esperanza salutes founders, supporters in 20th anniversary celebration

La Esperanza david burton with sisters

David Burton and Ann Burton, right, longtime supporters of La Esperanza, pose with Sister Rosa Alvarez and Sister Maria Mairlot.

REHOBOTH BEACH — La Esperanza celebrated its 20th anniversary with an event that honored the people who have helped the Georgetown community center provide hope to recent immigrants.

An April 5 luncheon was held at the Rehoboth Beach Country Club for some 65 special guests, including early supporters described as “angels” who appeared out of nowhere to unite people for a common cause.

Since 1996, La Esperanza has helped tens of thousands of people find the lives they so desperately wanted when they emigrated from their homelands. At the heart of La Esperanza stand three women: Sister Ascension Banegas, Sister Maria Mairlot and Sister Rosa Alvarez, all of whom are now in their 80s.

La Esperanza Founders pat duchense

Pat Duchesne, Frank Duchesne and Jenaro D Simpson, early supporters of La Esperanza, pose with Sister Maria Mairlot and Sister Rosa Alvarez.

“Every time the sisters prayed for someone to help the community, angels appeared.  All of you heard of the important work the sisters were doing, and asked ‘How can I help?’,” said Allison Burris Castellanos, a former La Esperanza board member and longtime supporter of the Sussex County Latino community.

Charlie Burton, the current board president, said at the luncheon that the timing of the 20th anniversary comes just as La Esperanza has completed a strategic study of its past and future.

“We’re in a position now to embark on a new decade of growth with a clear understanding of what we want to do, and that’s integrate Latino individuals and their families into the community through advocacy, education, and support services,” he said.

Ms. Burris Castellanos said La Esperanza has remained a constant in the Latino community thanks to individuals who saw a need and approached the right people.

“The sisters are three angels who have been helped by many other angels,” she said.

Special recognition was given to Frank and Pat Duchesne of Bethany Beach, who first noticed the influx of immigrants to the area in the early 1990s. They rented a house in Georgetown and recruited the three nuns from the Washington, D.C. area to help the immigrants.

Within a month, David Burton of Milford heard about these nuns, found them, and asked how he could help out. Both Pat Duchesne and David Burton, father of Charlie Burton, served for many years as board members of La Esperanza.

Others recognized for their early contributions included U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Gonzalo Martinez, Alicia Sosman, and Bert and Patricia Roberts.

Not only have the Carmelite nuns served as the backbone of La Esperanza, but along with Gonzalo Martinez they helped launch other organizations with complementary services, including El Centro Cultural, La Casita, Primeros Pasos and La Red Health Center.

“We’re all very honored to work with such passionate, determined and caring women who have made Sussex County a much better place for everyone,” said Charlie Burton.

La Esperanza Board and staff

Staff and a few board members pose after La Esperanza’s 20th anniversary celebration. Front row from left: Amy Perez, Crystal Timmons-Underwood, Sister Rosa Alvarez and Sister Maria Mairlot. Second row: Patricia Rivera, Anita Costales, Maria Porter, Amayrani Villabosa and Jessica Carino. Third row: Kevin Gilmore, Bryan Mozeik, Tony Toledo, Charles Burton, Bryant Garcia and Sister Noeli Massoni.

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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