By LESLIE COLLINS
May 15, 2013
Growing up in a family with 9 other siblings meant life was always interesting.
“It was a blast,” Mo Orpin said. “I have nothing but great memories from my childhood.”
Earlier this year, Orpin became the executive director of The Don Bosco Centers, taking over for Torre Nigro who now serves as executive director volunteer.
Orpin grew up in Fairway, Kan., and recalls playing with paper dolls, hunting for arrow heads near the Shawnee Indian Mission Museum and performing in original family plays.
Every Christmas, she and her siblings would perform the Nativity Story in front of family members or create plays about specific family members. During the summer, she and her siblings would rally the neighborhood kids together to perform original plays in the backyard. Their costumes ranged from old prom dresses to scrubs to nun habits.
“We just did a lot of family stuff together,” she said.
Neighbors still participate in the Turkey Bowl, a Thanksgiving Day football game, which her family started years ago.
Her parents taught her the value of integrity, of the Golden Rule and the importance of helping others in need.
“Both my parents have very giving hearts and raised each of us to reach out to others whenever we could, and to have fun,” she said.
Orpin graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in education and a minor in English. For a year-and-a-half she taught at St. Augustus in Kansas City, Mo., and then worked at her former grade school, St. Agnes in Roeland Park, for 20 years as a teacher, vice principal and fundraiser organizer. Later, she was contracted to organize fundraisers for a variety of non-profit organizations.
While at St. Agnes, she led the Stewardship Club for the junior high youth and would raise money and perform service projects for area charities. She took her students to visit the shut-ins of the parish and the students also made construction paper prayer chains. During the Christmas season, they would go caroling and give gifts and grocery cards to struggling families and individuals.
“It was cool for the kids. It instilled in them to give back and that they can make a difference,” she said.
Orpin learned about Don Bosco through Don Bosco Fund Development Director Leslie Gasser, who lives in the same neighborhood. Another connection is Don Bosco Senior Center’s Director Anne Miller, whose son attends St. Agnes.
When Orpin visited Don Bosco’s Senior Center and the English as a Second Language (ESL) program, she said both programs impressed her.
The director of the ESL program began sharing success stories and Orpin stood amazed. Then, he began talking about a Somalian family who recently moved to the U.S. after living in a refugee camp for 22 years.
“It was just like, ‘This is amazing,’” Orpin said. “These people have been living in a refugee camp for that many years; Now, they’re getting that first taste of freedom and Don Bosco is going to help them learn the language and get them assimilated into the community. It really struck me to see them.”
Orpin’s goals for Don Bosco include expanding the youth program to offer after-school programming and a summer camp as well as partnering with area organizations and pooling resources to make Don Bosco’s Work Empowerment Program a success. The program teaches individuals how to apply for jobs, how to keep a job, interview techniques and other life skills. Orpin said she also wants to keep the organization streamlined while it helps to build a strong Northeast community.
When she’s not working, you can find Orpin in the kitchen creating delectable dishes or at sports games taking photographs. She also likes attending plays and concerts and participating in community service projects.
“I love a challenge and I see one ahead because I know I have a lot to learn, but I love to learn new things,” Orpin said of Don Bosco. “I already feel very passionate about the mission of Don Bosco. We tell the board (of directors) it’s easy for us to go out and build our organization when you’re passionate about it.
“We have some rebuilding to do (at Don Bosco), but we are rebuilding in a really positive way. We want everybody to know the great things that are happening at Don Bosco.”