Humans of Calvert County, Sarah Merranko & Anita Santoyo

“I am a painter, I love to paint. But I teach drawing basics, art history, and painting. It just started with a friend of mine asked me five or six years ago if I would teach her daughter painting. My daughter was friends with her too so I started doing lessons for both of them. We had two other girls that joined, so it was just the four of them. And then over time, other people heard I was doing this for them, so it started to grow. Now I have a website and a Facebook site just so people can see what we are doing. It’s been amazing to see how things work out. I just keep revamping every year so I can keep offering what the kids want, including some private lessons. I have been doing this for the past five or six years, with the exception of two years ago when I took some time off.

When I wake up in the morning, God talks to me. One morning, he said, “Stop painting. Stop teaching,’ and I thought that was just crazy. Everything was going so well with the business, I had all these kids, I can’t disappoint them, but it was really weighing on me. For the next month, I kept hearing “You need to stop painting and go work with this project, which ended-up being the Echos of Hope Project.”

I had been volunteering at Project Echo once a month on Thursday with a group helping serve dinners for about four years. I had a great deal of empathy for the people I met there, and I wanted to share their hope with others. What they wanted their future to look like. So I presented my ideas to them, including how I would come in and talk to them and use what I learn to create their portraits. I don’t know how this will all work out, but I want to create enough paintings to show in some way to bring awareness to Project Echo and the work they do.

This painting I love. It is interactive, so people will be able to write “Hope” on the painting. Her story is scribbled in the background. You can’t read it, but you know it’s there. Her story was very important to her. My idea is that it will be covered in some much “HOPE” that it covers the parts of her life that has been so difficult.”

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...