For eleventh-grader Natalie Kondos, giving back to the community means something truly personal. A musician for Pine View’s Orchestra, as well as Sarasota Youth Orchestra, Kondos founded Instruments of Hope this past summer, a non-profit organization that works to distribute free instruments to children within areas affected by natural disasters.
When Kondos was just 3 years old, Hurricane Charlie made its way through Florida, leaving destruction in its path. “The eye went directly over my house, and I remember the feelings that came with it,” she said.
After the storm, Kondos’ home was severely damaged. Kondos recalls feeling traumatized at first, lacking a means to cope. Realizing she needed a mechanism to work through these emotions, she turned to music. “I’ve used that since as an outlet for me,” Kondos said. “The whole time surrounding post disaster, everything is damaged, everything is ground zero, and there’s nothing tangible anymore. You’re looking for that. I think music is a really good place to find that.” At 5 years old, Kondos began playing the piano and eventually the cello, her current instrument of choice.
Using these experiences as her inspiration, over this past summer, Kondos established Instruments of Hope. The organization hosted its first fundraiser Feb. 4 at Paint and Party, a local business which hosts group events where guests tap into their artistic side. Kondos has since been receiving instrument donations. “It’s really getting off the ground,” she said.
Although no future fundraisers are currently set in stone, Kondos is focused on developing new ideas as she continues to layout the groundwork of her organization. Kondos also reached out to Tervis Tumbler, who upon receiving her letter donated 50 tumblers to Instruments of Hope, each one with the organization’s printed logo.
In terms of community outreach, Kondos has also managed to make some head way. Many Florida counties have been devastated after Hurricane Irma, and even today are still rebuilding. After writing a lot of letters to districts across the state, Kondos said Lee County has become very receptive to the mission Instruments of Hope and may shortly begin partnering with her organziation. This process would mean equipping students with musical instruments but also subsidizing music teacher costs. Kondos is also looking into possible connections with areas affected by recent hurricanes like Houston and Puerto Rico.
“It’s very me. I’m giving part of me back to people,” Kondos said. “It’s so hard for people to really feel protection, so if I can impart that onto someone it really means a lot to me.”