Our Founder, Deacon Lesley-Ann Drake, was volunteering at a homeless shelter when she met a 19-year old checking in with her four young children. As Lesley-Ann has said, “That meeting was as if God was hitting me over the head with a 2×4! I thought I was going to be a hospice chaplain but God had other plans.” At first, she planned to volunteer with someone else’s after-school program; but each time she visited one, she came away shaking her head, clear that the program was not what she wanted to do. There was no training, or the group was too big, or there was a shortage of adults, or the criteria to attend was too narrow. After many visits and a couple of months in discernment, Lesley-Ann created Path To Shine with the clear goal of establishing a small group mentoring program for elementary school children. She wanted a program that would be sustainable for years to come while giving the children the attention they desperately needed. Over the years she worked with the experts she needed to create a model that can be adapted and planted in just about any location complete with training, curriculum, books, money for outings, and so much more.
As a vocational Deacon in the Episcopal Church, Lesley-Ann’s charge is to bring the needs and concerns of the world into the church and “move parishioners out of their comfortable pews into the uncomfortable world” so they can do something (about the concerns of the world). She networked through the Episcopal Church for over a decade to engage parishioners in the work of mentoring children. While some people only mentor for one year there are many who sign up to work with a kindergartener and stay with the same student until they leave to go on to middle school. As the program grew, she expanded her reach to other denominations and other faiths, as well as people of no faith. “If someone is going to help a child, I was clear that I wasn’t going to get hung up on anyone’s faith background,” Lesley-Ann says.
Lesley-Ann’s legacy is rich. “People have told me that I changed their lives because they volunteered to mentor with Path To Shine. And young adults who are now in college and went through PTS as children have told me the same thing. It’s not me who changed lives – it’s God at work. It’s the love of Jesus demonstrated by a commitment to show up once a week for 2.5 hours to work with the same one or two children. It’s the Episcopal Church doing what it does best, and I’m thankful for everyone who has stepped out in faith, nervous perhaps because they are not trained educators, and they did the work anyway.”