Voices of Esperanza: Bonnie Camarda
Recently, we spoke with Rev. Bonnie Camarda, Director of Partnerships
with The Salvation Army’s Eastern Pennslyvania and Delaware Division, about
Esperanza Health Center’s beginnings. While serving as church administrator
at Living Word Community in Philadelphia in the 1980s, Bonnie helped
founding physician, Dr. Carolyn Klaus, turn the vision for a North Philadelphia
community health center into reality. On June 15, 1989, Esperanza’s doors
opened as a small, second-story walk-up clinic on North Fifth Street. Bonnie
continued to provide administrative support on a part-time basis at Esperanza,
and in the mid-1990’s served as Interim Executive Director during a difficult
Below are some of Bonnie’s reflections and insights about the health center’s
earliest days and how God continued to demonstrate his faithfulness and
goodness to Esperanza throughout those years, despite many challenges.
What was Esperanza like in those early days?
“In the early days, we had a 2nd floor on Fifth Street, which we called “Bloque
de Oro”—patients started visiting Esperanza because they knew we were caring.
We accepted everyone, it didn’t matter who you were. If you came to the clinic,
you were treated with respect, with love, and were given a message that you
were important, because we served God. We had four doctors: Dr. Carolyn
Klaus, Dr. Michael Moore, Dr. Bryan Hollinger [Esperanza’s current Medical
Director] and Dr. Melissa Nieves. Little by little, we started to take in more and
more patients. What Esperanza Health Center had from the beginning was the
commitment of the entire staff—the nurses, the doctors, the receptionist, the
accountant—to really see the Kingdom of God built in the community.”
When Esperanza was going to potentially close its doors in the 1990s, was there a turning point?
“After Dr. Klaus moved on to another ministry in Indiana, the clinic had a lot of
challenges. We didn’t have any money. We literally could not pay the doctors.
And, I was brought in as the interim Executive Director, to try to help us see
how we could go through that ‘bump.’ During that time we had a very good
chair of the Board, Mrs. Nancy Huston Hansen, and immediately we started
mobilizing to try to learn more about billing to make sure we were doing it
correctly. We also had a few donors who came around us to give us money to
keep us going….Without God, I don’t think that Esperanza would have been
able to continue.”
How did you see God demonstrate his faithfulness to Esperanza?
“Without faith, Esperanza would not be here, and without faith, patients would
be without hope. I can tell you one story that I still remember, from
Esperanza’s early days, when we visited a patient’s home on Fifth Street that
was in disrepair. The patient had seven kids, and she had asked us to visit her
and help her. Little by little, we taught her how to save money so she could
move out of that house, and how she could be educated for the kids’ sake.
Today, five of her seven children have degrees from college. Without faith, we
couldn’t have done that—trying to see what the needs were, and to help. I also
remember a young patient who had HIV/AIDS because of his drug use. He
soon gave his life to Christ, and later died because of AIDS. We were able to
give him hope, to come alongside the family and help…Wihout God, those early
patients we saw that had AIDS would not have had the same hope.”
If you had something that you would want everyone to know about Esperanza, what would you tell them?
“Esperanza is the place that God has chosen for the people of this community.
Esperanza is the place that He has His hands on—yesterday, today and into the
future, because of their faith.”
New Health Promoter Class Graduates!
On May 3rd, the newest group of Esperanza’s Community Health
Promoters graduated in a ceremony at our Hunting Park gymnasium.
A total of eight new promoters graduated in this class (five of our eight
graduates are pictured above). The class was taught in Spanish, and a
new class to be taught in English will begin in September. Said Lianette
Pappaterra, MPH, CPH (photo, 3rd from left), who serves as Esperanza’s
Community Programs Manager: “This group has been a joy—they have
been engaged, inquisitive, and so committed not only to the information
learned each week, but also to modeling positive health changes in their
own lives and encouraging others to do the same.”
This past Tuesday, May 28th, our Young at Heart Seniors Group enjoyed a tea
party celebration! The seniors came dressed in tea party clothing and enjoyed
tea sandwiches, pastries and fruit, some of it provided by the seniors.The
theme the tea party was “What brings you joy?” Thanks to everyone at ARTZ
Philly for making the party possible.
Click below to learn about the many current job opportunities across
various departments, clinical and non-clinical, at Esperanza Health Center!
If you are interested in volunteering at Esperanza: please visit our
Volunteering page and contact Karen Norris, Volunteer Coordinator at
firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can be involved!
Medical students and residents: we have extensive experience in
precepting students and residents at all levels of training, as well as our
Medical Student Mentoring Program. Please contact David Feister, Medical
Department Administrator at email@example.com