Two Months In: what I’m learning about volunteer strength

By Marissa Kurtz, Volunteer Program Specialist, Casa de Esperanza

I spend most of my working hours analyzing and developing Casa de Esperanza’s volunteer and intern program. This perspective gave me the opportunity to deepen my respect and appreciation for those who offer up their free time and services to causes they believe in.

Every volunteer I have met and worked with is extremely proud of the work Casa does for the Latin@ community. They are happy to support Casa in the organization’s mission to “mobilize Latinas and Latin@ communities to end domestic violence.”

This level of volunteer dedication became even more apparent to me as I began assisting in the planning process of our event, Honoring Latina Leadership.

During the planning phase of the event, we realized that we needed additional support. The planning committee decided that Casa needed at least twelve volunteers for the night. Initially, I felt very daunted by this request to find that many people in a short amount of time. When I started reaching out to community members, I was surprised by the quick response. Many people simply told me to let them know the best ways they could help and when they needed to show up.

The day of the event, my stress level would have been so much higher without a group of dependable volunteers. I had one volunteer who assisted in interviewing guests about the night. Many people thought she was a member of the media because of her level of professionalism and enthusiasm.

Patti Tototzintle, Casa de Esperanza’s CEO, presenting the Adelante Esperanza awards


Casa de Esperanza hosted Honoring Latina Leadership as a chance to celebrate women in the community. Six local women were recognized with the Adelante Esperanza award for their work in the Latin@ community and Casa gave a special accolade to Sandy Vargas, the former CEO and president of the Minneapolis Foundation.

One of my favorite Adelante Esperanza awards of the night went to a longtime volunteer with Casa, Jessica Warffuel. This Youth Amig@s Mentor served as a volunteer with Casa’s Youth Amig@s program for over three years. In that time, she encouraged Casa to focus more on health education by offering the Youth Amig@s vegetable heavy fresh meals instead of take out and scheduling more time for physical activities. Every Thursday Jessica transported two or three youth to and from Casa’s weekly meetings.



Here I am, trying to look as energized as some of these amazing Youth Amig@s and Mentors

Working at the Honoring Latina Leadership event made me realize something important. As I coordinated the volunteers during the event and listened to our staff recognize the long-term work Jessica has done for Casa I remembered these people had busy lives outside of this organization. There is a difference between being good at your job and being a good volunteer. These volunteers are also parents, have other full-time jobs, are full-time students. On this night and throughout the year, they still show up and dedicate hours to Casa’s programming without an expectation of compensation.  I find it amazing that although Casa’s volunteers have many outside responsibilities, they still invest so much of their time and energy into supporting this organization and raising up the Latin@ community.