Meet Desiree: CoachArt Senior Program Manager and Hospital Outreach Specialist
CoachArt Bay Area Spotlight: Meet CoachArt Senior Program Manager and Hospital Outreach Specialist, Desiree Brown!
Desiree Brown, CoachArt’s hospital outreach specialist and a senior program manager for the San Francisco Bay Area, is a seventh-generation Oakland native who experienced chronic illness in her own childhood.
She has an M.A. in Culture and Spirituality from Holy Names University. While there, she was a college mentor for high school students. Since then she has been a literacy instructor and teacher’s assistant, among other positions.
She’s active with the Martin Luther King Baptist Church, where she managed the food bank and the summer school retention program, and developed a neighborhood cleaning team and a feeding program for the homeless. She has twice participated in AmeriCorps.
Desiree and her husband have two young children of their own, but she kindly made time to chat with us.
CoachArt: Do you mind sharing your own experience with childhood chronic illness?
Desiree: I had really bad asthma and missed a boatload of school. I was hospitalized more than 10 times before I was 10. It’s gotten better with adulthood, or I just know how to take care of myself better. But it’s still pretty bad on some days!
CoachArt: Service to others is a big part of your life. How did that start?
Desiree: My mom made it a requirement. I had to always be doing community service at every point in my life. But I was also the first in my family to go to college, and when I applied my family couldn’t help me, so I had to use other resources like Youth Uprising, and the school counselor, to get help. Mentors saved me, and I always want to be in a position to mentor other people.
CoachArt: Have you made service a requirement for your own kids?
Desiree: Definitely. Every Saturday we’re giving out food with the church. On Thanksgiving we don’t eat at home; we give out food to the homeless. On Christmas mornings we make baskets for the battered women’s shelter and donate toys to the kids there. The difference is that I can help my kids more because of the education I’ve had.
CoachArt: Outside of your work and service and family, what are you passionate about?
Desiree: All kinds of literature. I had a hard time reading growing up, but my parents used to read to me, and the way my dad got me to learn is that he’d get to the good part and stop and say “if you want to know the rest of this book, you have to learn to read it.” And I did. It’s so powerful to be able to step out of myself, no matter how much pain I’m feeling or how chaotic things are, by reading. I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, and I like anything by Maya Angelou, anything by Emily Dickinson, any kind of poetry. I read to my kids every night and I want so much for them to fall in love with reading so they can have that resource.
CoachArt: What’s something you enjoy about working at CoachArt?
Desiree: The sense that a job is “meant to be” was a foreign concept to me. You’re lucky to have a job and pay for your kids. But this position came up, and I was really unsure. Is it diverse enough? Will it be a group of white people helping a group of white people? And on my first day I was at lunch with coworkers talking about God, and my kids, and at that moment I thought: this job is meant for me. I feel like CoachArt embraces me for who I am. My job is so authentic. Every single day I get to help people and work from my passion, and it’s fun, and I get support when I need it, but most of all I can be who I am.
CoachArt: What do you envision doing in the future?
Desiree: I’m never ever going to retire! My end goal is to become a chaplain. I already have experience with being a youth pastor. Being a hospital outreach specialist for CoachArt is a step in that direction because I get to have conversations with a parent whose kid is on hospice or whose kid has brain cancer, and I get to work with those kids. I want to be there for people, anybody and everybody, on the worst days of their lives.
Our sincere thanks to Desiree, CoachArt Bay Area Senior Program Manager and Hospital Outreach Specialist, for sharing her story with the CoachArt community!
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR FAMILIES IMPACTED BY CHILDHOOD CHRONIC ILLNESS
Since 2001, CoachArt has matched volunteer coaches with students for one-on-one or group lessons in arts and athletics. Our vision is that one day every family impacted by chronic illness will be connected to a community of support and an opportunity to learn and grow together.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, CoachArt is providing virtual (online) lessons for all group activities and 1-1 lessons. Learn more about CoachArt’s virtual programming for kids and teens impacted by chronic illness.
CoachArt offers free art and athletic lessons to chronically ill children and their siblings between the ages of 5-18 in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego. If your child has been diagnosed with a chronic condition, we invite you to fill out a student eligibility form or get in touch to learn if CoachArt is right for your child.
WAYS TO HELP
Do you have an artistic or athletic skill you’d like to share virtually with a child impacted by chronic illness? Become a CoachArt Volunteer.