By Ken Williams | Contributing Editor
Downtown residents Arlene and Richard Esgate understand the importance of giving back and strive to make a difference in San Diego and beyond.
Whether advocating for Balboa Park or serving on the board of the Mainly Mozart Festival, the Esgates put their wallets where their hearts lie. They are major donors to Childhelp, a national child-abuse prevention and treatment organization. In 2012, Childhelp gave the couple the “Founders for the Love of a Child” award for their dedication and support. Giving is what the Esgates do.
Arlene is a former high school teacher who also held city-government jobs in Elmore County, Idaho. Richard is a former engineer and chief financial officer of San Diego’s EsGil Corp., which provides building department services for cities nationwide. They met in 2002, discovered that they shared the love of art, music, nonprofits and charitable causes, and bonded immediately.
Richard was already active in Mainly Mozart, and Arlene had spent many years working with P.E.O., a philanthropic organization dedicated to educating women. So after they married in 2006, the Esgates helped start the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra.
In 2006, Arlene joined the Patrons of the Prado, which has raised more than $2 million for Balboa Park institutions since being formed in 1997.
This month, the Esgates are turning their attention as co-chairs of USO San Diego’s 76th Stars & Stripes Gala on May 20 at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina.
Here are five questions with Arlene Esgate:
- What is the Stars and Stripes Gala, and who does it benefit?
USO San Diego’s 76th annual “Stars and Stripes Gala: Land of the Free … Because of the Brave,” May 20 at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina (usosandiego.org), is an evening of celebrating, thanking and giving tribute to the men and women serving in our military.
The USO Gala benefits ALL service members by keeping them connected to family and country throughout their service. The USO is there to guide, comfort, rehabilitate and re-educate the brave military individuals that have suffered untold losses and injuries. The USO is a financial link for the injured soldiers and a guiding light for families now dealing with new challenges.
I am inspired by these brave people who serve in our military, and the families and community that support them. As one of the leading military cities in the world, San Diego and our USO San Diego team served more than 260,000 military members and their families last year alone at our award-winning Neil Ash USO Airport Center and our Downtown San Diego facility.
- What other charities are you involved in and why?
Other charities Richard and I are involved in are:
- Patrons of the Prado — Their mission is to raise funds to benefit 10 arts and science institutions in Balboa Park. They also provide transportation to thousands of school-age children through their Bucks for Buses outreach program. POP provides access for the youth of our community to the high-quality educational programming made available by the 10 beneficiaries.
- Childhelp — Their hotline is 1-800-4-A-Child. Close to five children a day die from child abuse in the United States. Childhelp has rescued, educated, counseled and nurtured over 10 million children since its inception in 1959. The two lovely founders have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And 93 cents of every dollar goes directly to care for the kids.
- The Salvation Army — This organization reaches out to anyone at anytime in the moment of most need. The Salvation Army is a group of dedicated Christians who answer the plea for help all over the world. “Doing the Most Good” is their mission — to feed, comfort, clothe and care is their duty. They provide food distribution, disaster relief, rehabilitation centers, anti-human trafficking efforts along with many senior and children programs.
- The Epilepsy Foundation — I support the Epilepsy Foundation because my grandmother had epilepsy. She lived with us and as a small child I witnessed many of her seizures. The science and medical fields have made great strides in detecting and controlling epileptic seizures, but there is still more to learn and more support needed for further research.
- Mainly Mozart — This is one of San Diego’s leading music organizations focusing on the works of Mozart and the masters. Mainly Mozart’s youth orchestra and educational outreach programs are enjoyed by over 40,000 students in the U.S. and Mexico. During the Mainly Mozart festival in June, top musicians from all over the nation perform and participate in interactive musical events with both the children and adults in our community.
- I also support Las Patronas, Vista Hill, The Arc of San Diego, Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego Film Festival and some medical institutions in our city.
- Why are you so passionate about Balboa Park?
Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the nation. And that is saying something! It is a 1,200-acre destination right in the heart of San Diego and is usually referred to as “The Jewel of San Diego.” The world-famous San Diego Zoo is at one end and the Cultural Park is at the other end with over 20 museums and theaters and Fleet Science Center. The delicious eateries, the gorgeous flora, the beautiful architecture, the free concerts at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, the lovely Japanese Garden, the interactive and creative Spanish Village Art Center are just some choices you have for outings regardless of age or physical abilities.
- How did you two meet, and what are the challenges of blending two families?
Richard and I met at the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, California on Aug. 31, 2002. We each had three grown children, and I had five grandchildren and Richard had three grandchildren. We now have 13 grandchildren together and have another grandson due to arrive this August. We literally have had no challenges blending our families. I suppose the only challenge we have had is providing enough food for the whole gang when we celebrate together!
- What do you like about living Downtown?
We love living in Downtown San Diego because of the many choices we have each day. We can walk to over 100 restaurants, we have Horton Plaza and Petco Park down the street, we have theater, art and cultural venues close by, we have the trolley or the ferry to jump on to reach other areas, both the north and south Embarcaderos are beautiful to walk around and filled with many activities, and Little Italy is just a nice walk away to enjoy dinner or shopping or the amazing Saturday farmers market. We love San Diego and all it has to offer!
For more information about USO San Diego and the upcoming gala, visit usosandiego.org or call 619-235-6503.
—Ken Williams is a contributing editor of San Diego Downtown News and can be reached at email@example.com or at 619-961-1952.