When Charlie Ferrara received a phone call from Father Paul Sheridan one afternoon in 1990, he expected to catch up with his former high school mentor. What he didn’t know at the time was that this would be a call that would change his life.
In 1977, Fr. Paul founded Boys Hope. With the intention of breaking patterns of abuse, poverty, and neglect, his family-style, non-institutional home provided academic, financial, and spiritual support to disadvantaged boys in St. Louis, helping them reach their full potential. The success of Boys Hope led to replication in various cities across the country. It was while he was collaborating with Sister Donna Marie Tahaney and the Sisters of Saint Joseph to open a home for girls in Baden that Fr. Paul reached out to his former St. Louis University High School student for assistance. With no home, no scholars, and essentially nothing to base the idea of Girls Hope off of besides Fr. Paul and Sr. Donna’s excitement, Charlie agreed to help transform their vision into a reality. Twenty-six years later, he remains deeply involved in our mission.
“For the last 26 years, Girls Hope has been an important part of my life,” said Charlie, who has served on the Board of Directors (once as Chair) and its Development Committee since its creation. “I’ve never lost enthusiasm for Girls Hope, and it has never lost importance to me.”
While Fr. Paul and Sr. Donna’s passion for their soon-to-be mission helped persuade Charlie to play an active role in the formation of Girls Hope, it was his time at SLU High that truly impacted his decision.
“SLU High had a great influence on me,” Charlie said. “It was a big turning point, not only because of academics, but also because the diversity of the student body helped me realize how big the world was out there. Girls Hope is the turning point for our girls. We certainly take care of them and educate them, but they [also] find out how big the world is and how many opportunities there are.”
It was a concept that he was able to relate to on a personal level, and the idea of helping at-risk youth made him enthusiastic about the program.
One of the things that has kept Charlie involved with Girls Hope for so long is watching our scholars transform into poised women who make a positive and lasting impact on the world around them.
“I wish [people] knew what a life changing program this is for these girls and the people they will be involved with for the rest of their lives, whether it be their family or the people they work with, because of the impact of Girls Hope,” Charlie said.
Charlie watched the organization expand in 2001, when Girls Hope opened its second home in Clinton. In 2009, we partnered with the Felician Sisters to open the permanent location of our second home at our Coraopolis location. He’s excited to see how the organization will continue to grow and change in the future.
“The board, chaired by Duffy Hanna, is the youngest, most talented, and dedicated board we’ve had in 26 years,” he said. “The development operation is the best we’ve had in 26 years. It’s amazing to realize that over 1,200 people come to one of our five events every year, and the difference in awareness between 1990 and 2016 is phenomenal.”
When Charlie isn’t working with Girls Hope, he can be found teaching, consulting, and spending time with his grandchildren.
The Girls Hope family would like to extend a sincere thank you to Charlie for all of his time, talent, and treasure. We deeply appreciate his dedication to our mission!