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Say Yes To Giving Back!

Diane Mintz



Diane Mintz has lived in Berkeley, CA her whole adult life. She attended the University of California, worked as an editor and translator, and then briefly as a newspaper reporter.
Since 1983 she has been a licensed broker with Marvin Gardens Real Estate in Berkeley, serving buyers and sellers in the East Bay with sensitivity and the expertise borne of many years of experience. www.dianemintz.com

In 1998 she began tutoring in a first grade classroom in Richmond, CA, just 10 miles north of Berkeley, but in a world apart. At Coronado School, she tutored children whose lives were marked by extreme poverty and, very often, the family dysfunction which is often a concomitant of poverty. One day with Freddy on her lap together they were sounding out words. When they got to "bed," she hinted that it was what he slept on. Freddy responded: "the floor?" 

It wasn't long before she began filling her car with first graders on Friday afternoons for outings to parks. The only food these kids got was at school, and so she provided ample snacks. The kids were overjoyed to be running around and playing in the grass. So, that summer when school was out she got help from teachers to identify 10 of the neediest kids and every Saturday she rented a van, collected the kids at their homes, and went off to explore the joys of the Bay Area. Though within sight of the Bay, none of these kids had left Richmond to visit San Francisco, to see the Golden Gate Bridge, or any other of the region's natural and cultural riches.

The grand finale of those Saturdays was an overnight camping at Chabot Regional Park.
At first the children were frightened: of the dark, of the silence, of the sounds of owls and other night dwellers. But, by morning they were running around joyfully. At the goodbye circle, the kids agreed that the overnight camp trip was the highlight of the summer.
Thus, Youth Enrichment Strategies was conceived. See www.yesfamilies.org.

The next summer, 1999, Diane raised $15,000 from friends and colleagues, and sent 81 children to one week of sleep-away camp at Camp Loma Mar, just above Santa Cruz. And, since that time, YES sends hundreds of children to camp each summer with a growing list of participating camps. Now there are seven camp sites, and, in addition, YES partners with East Bay Regional Parks for additional overnight camping for the entire family. Approximately 300 kids go to at least one week of camp each summer. Many return year after year.

Because it soon became clear that nature has the power to heal and to transform, in 2004, YES began Family Camp weekends. YES rented a camp and provided transportation for entire families, approximately 100 campers of all ages, to spend the weekend in the peace of nature. They were served in the dining room; did family art projects around an educational theme (spiders, raptors, redwoods, etc); played music together; and put on a show at the campfire. On Sunday morning adults gathered separately for a workshop on topics of concern to them (child rearing, violence, participating in the child's school, etc). Family Camp still goes on and thousands of Richmond families' lives have been transformed by the opportunity to spend time together in nature.

Kids who have attended summer camp are eligible for counselor-in-training programs and learn leadership skills. After age 16 when they age out of camp, they return to Richmond and can be placed as interns in nonprofits serving the community.

For nine years, YES operated out of Diane's real estate desk. In 2007, YES graduated to a real office in Richmond, a place which became a warm, inviting place for kids to stop by after school and for parents to stop by for a chat when registering their kids for summer camp or signing up for Family Camp.

See the latest YES video and find out more about Youth Enrichment Strategies at www.yesfamilies.org

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