Charity Spotlight: HopeSpring Village

Portrait caption: Gianna Giambalvo, at center in blue, is the inspiration for HopeSpring Village, a Cary-based nonprofit working to create independent housing options for adults with disabilities. Pictured with Gianna are her parents and HopeSpring founders, Esther and Lou Giambalvo. Board members of the organization, pictured clockwise from left, include Dakota Dunne, Lorraine Leahy, Alice Burrows and John Tote. 

Raise A Roof

What: 10th annual HopeSpring Village Charity Golf Tournament and After-Party

When: Saturday, Oct. 3 with 9 a.m. shotgun start

Where: The Preserve at Jordan Lake in Chapel Hill; emcee is Heather Waliga of WTVD11

Don’t golf? Come dine in the Preserve Clubhouse beginning at 3:30 p.m. A $30 ticket buys dinner catered by Travinia Italian Kitchen, cocktails, music by Garland Mason from N.C. band The Four Founders, silent auction and two raffle tickets.

Get tickets:


Competent and industrious, Gianna Giambalvo was voted Best Public Speaker by her Green Hope High School peers.

But while her younger sister, Nicolette, is off enjoying college life, Gianna, 20, remains at home, due to a severe shortage of housing for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Gianna has Down syndrome.

“We’ve always treated our children completely equally. That’s why it’s so important to me that Gianna gets to experience independent living,” said her mom, Esther.

“We’ve always given her challenges,” added her dad, Lou. “So we felt that if we got involved, we could create safe housing close to home, where Gianna can continue to grow.” 

The Giambalvos and a group of likeminded parents, after much research, launched the nonprofit HopeSpring Village in 2012. Their goal is to create safe, affordable, community-based housing options so adults like Gianna can live independently.

“As a parent, my job is to make sure my daughter Margaret (who also has Down syndrome) has a place in the world,” said HopeSpring Village President Lorraine Leahy. “Our mission is to create a model all families can access, funded with private, not public, funds. It’s about options.” 

To date, HopeSpring Village has opened two “Friendship Houses” in Durham’s North Street Community. Formerly a stretch of deteriorating homes, the houses were rehabbed by developer Legacy Real Property Group, and purchased by families with special needs and others wanting to be part of an inclusive community.

The Friendship Houses model works thanks to HopeSpring Village’s partnership with Duke Divinity School, property manager ARC of North Carolina, and Reality Ministries, which creates opportunities for the disabled and disadvantaged.

By inviting Duke graduate students to live in community with adults with disabilities, housing needs are met for both groups and the groundwork is laid for future projects.

HopeSpring Village Secretary/Treasurer Dakota Dunne points out that the model is not just for people with Down syndrome, or divinity students. Partnering schools could include those with training for special education, medicine and more.

Raise A Roof is an annual golf event supporting HopeSpring Village.

Motivated by the long-term outlook for his own son, Bently, 10, Dunne said, “Over the last decade we’ve encountered three general types of people or organizations: Those looking for independent living alternatives that feel safe and meet their expectations for quality of life, those who are anxiously trying to develop such an alternative but lack the expertise or funding to get an idea off the ground, and those willing to contribute their expertise or resources to a viable plan that will make a difference for those in need.

“The challenge is pulling all these groups together. That's what HopeSpring Village has done with The Friendship Houses in Durham. We hope to use that blueprint and help more families and organizations extend that learning to benefit more communities going forward.

“You’ve heard the buzzword ‘Center of Excellence?’ The Triangle could become the Center of Excellence for independent living alternatives for young adults with disabilities, and set the bar.”

To fund these future homes, the Giambalvos have expanded what was once a neighborhood golf tournament into the primary fundraiser for HopeSpring Village. This year marks a decade for the golf event, which has earned $80,000 each of the past two years, thanks to Triangle corporate sponsorships, friends and family.

This year’s tourney goal is $100,000, all toward the goal of independent living for adults including Gianna and Margaret, who plan to live together in the next HopeSpring Village house.

“It’s simple,” Lou Giambalvo said. “It’s the starting point of adult life.”

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