Passionate volunteers help with mural project at Milford Central Academy

Pictured from left are Kristie Maravalli, Emilie Cook, local artist John Donato, Lauren Weaver and Sue Nilsson.

Pictured from left are Kristie Maravalli, Emilie Cook, local artist John Donato, Lauren Weaver and Sue Nilsson.

For Selbyville resident Bob Katz, being a volunteer with the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation was a way to say thank you for bringing the arts to his back yard.

What kept him coming back is the people he encountered along the way.

For three years, Katz has volunteered with the fundraising nonprofit arts organization at the Freeman Stage at Bayside as well as for its Arts in Education program, with the legacy mural projects for middle schools.

The mural project provides an opportunity to bolster confidence and inspiration within the student body. It also offers students an opportunity to experience the visual arts first hand, and provide a visual legacy in their school for future students.

Local artist John Donato leads students throughout the project as he assists them in developing ideas and painting the mural pieces.

Donato is one of the reason Katz has continued to volunteer with the mural projects, he said.

Milford_Mural2“His passion is palpable,” Katz said. “I enjoy the students and teachers trying to create something memorable for themselves and the school.”

Most recently, Katz was a volunteer at Milford Central Academy helping with its week-long mural project, which began on Feb. 29.

The overall theme at Milford Central Academy consisted of personalized book spines painted by each student and focused on the school’s growth mindset philosophy. The public reveal of the mural was held on March 7.

The growth mindset helps students believe they can succeed and that mistakes are OK, according to Mark McDaniel, assistant principal at Milford Central Academy.

The mural project worked well with the growth mindset, he said, because students were able to understand while they might not think of themselves as artists, they can produce great art.

“Part of the obstacle is believing you can do something when you don’t think you can and once you start trying, you realize you start to experience success,” he said, adding students were excited to leave their mark on the school.

The students’ energy was one of Kristie Maravelli’s favorite parts about volunteering at the Milford mural project. The executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of the Commerce and three other Chamber employees decided as a team, they wanted to do a volunteer project, which lead them to the mural project. They spent several hours on Feb. 29 helping students find their desired stencils and paint colors, cleaning and sorting paint brushes and interacting with the middle-schoolers.

“When you come in with no expectations and within the first 10 to 15 minutes, (you see) their creativity, their energy, it’s really elevating,” Maravelli said.

The students' artistic creation was revealed at public reveal March 7, at Milford Central Academy.

The students’ artistic creation was revealed at public reveal March 7, at Milford Central Academy.

Other volunteers were also impressed with the level of maturity of the students at Milford Central Academy as well as the creativity they brought and positive attitude they possessed on a daily basis, said Denise DiSabatino Allen, Community Outreach, Education and Volunteer Coordinator for the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation.

“The growth mindset allowed volunteers to connect with students personally and reinforce the importance of trying new things,” she said.

The impact these programs have on those who participate wouldn’t be possible without the help of the volunteers, Allen added.

“Volunteers are critical to the success of our arts in education programs, especially our legacy mural projects,” she said.

While the Chamber’s staff may have been first-time Joshua M. Freeman Foundation volunteers, Maravelli said they would love to do it again.

“I think it’s important for service, but more so with our youth because this is really a time you can mold and make a difference,” she said. “It’s the great part of being a part of such a great community.”

Katz echoed Maravelli’s sentiments when asked why he would recommend others to volunteer with the Joshua M. Foundation.

“You’re able to be a part of a great team who shares your values,” he said. “I have met new friends who are now an important part of my life. There is some hard work, but every day is enjoyable.”

To be volunteer or to learn more about the volunteer opportunities at the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, visit or contact Denise DiSabatino Allen, Community Outreach, Education and Volunteer Coordinator, at or 302-213-6997.

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