An arrow from Cupid to volunteer’s heart

Bonnie Newman - photo jpeg

The calendar may say May 1, but we wanted to complete our celebration of April’s National Volunteer Appreciation Month by saluting one more long-time Coalition volunteer. And though we originally wrote about Bonnie Newman in our August 2013 CONNECT e-newsletter, we wanted to feature her here, as her dedication to the Art By Coalition Children (ABCs) Program just keeps growing!  

ABCs is a program that pairs professional artists in the community with children living at the Coalition. Often struggling with low self-esteem, the Coalition’s homeless children benefit from the program’s nurturing environment where they can learn about the arts and have the freedom to express themselves. The program  celebrated its 10th Anniversary in October 2013; and Bonnie’s heart and soul have been poured into the program ever since its beginning.

How did you get involved with the Coalition?
Retiring in April of 2005, I knew that I wanted to make volunteering a part of my retired life. When people ask me how I chose the ABCs program, I say that it was like an arrow from Cupid in the heart. Walking through the program’s exhibit at City Hall moved me to become a friend of ABCs and that was that!

What was your first impression?
My first night volunteering was during a class with artist and sculptor Marsha DeBroske and artist Patricia Byron. I was immediately swept up in the excitement that the kids shared while creating the soft sculptures they were working on.

How often and in what capacity do you volunteer?
When we are in full swing, there are hours devoted to organizing supplies, prepping for classes, and assisting during the classes. During the summer, we prepare for the new year by searching for artists and funding for supplies.

What has surprised you most about working with the Coalition?
The statistics about the Coalition’s service to children, families, veterans, mentally ill, and other groups amaze me. The average person has no clue about the true facts related to homelessness.

What is your fondest memory?
Fond memories are made each week with the children and families at the Coalition. When asking the kids what they enjoyed about their art class, I often hear how they enjoy the peace and calm in the art room while working on their creations. I remember back in 2006 during a photography class with Brian Becker, we had a teenage boy, Kevin, who was born with spina bifada and was bound to a wheel chair. His hands and fingers were curled, which impaired his motor skills. Kevin loved his camera and learned how to maneuver his fingers to take pictures from his perspective in his chair. His smile and pride about his accomplishments will forever be imprinted in my mind.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I love traveling, spending time with my four grandchildren and family, beading and making copper jewelry, and taking five mile walks with my husband.

What might someone be surprised to find out about you?
I have three pieces of body art!

You can purchase original artwork – including paintings, drawings and photographs – all framed and ready to hang. View the gallery at CentralFloridaHomeless.org and contact Kristen Martin at kristen.martin@cflhomeless.org to purchase.

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