Our Founder: Sister Diane

In 1989 Sister Diane Donoghue, then a community organizer for St. Vincent’s Church in South Central Los Angeles, was approached by a woman dying of cancer.

For 30 years, the woman’s family had rented the same home. She wanted to die peacefully in the home where she had raised her children, but her family was facing the threat of eviction.

Soon, other residents approached Sister Diane, concerned that their homes would also be destroyed for the construction of low-wage garment factories.

Working with the community, Sister Diane created Esperanza so that low-income residents would have decent housing and the ability to shape the future of their neighborhood.

About Sister Diane Donoghue

Diane Donoghue moved to Los Angeles with her family in 1935. In 1955 Diane entered the Sisters of Social Service. In 1969 she received a Master of Social Work degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She went on to work as the director of a residential treatment center for adolescents with mental health issues in Sacramento, and then as the co-sponsor/director of a residential center for heroin-addicted women in South Central Los Angeles.

Following a year of Sabbatical Studies at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union, Sister Diane became the Community Organizer for St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in South Central Los Angeles in 1985.

Four years later, as members of her community faced threats of eviction, Sister Diane founded Esperanza. Esperanza’s first project was Villa Esperanza Apartments: 33 units of affordable housing for large families, a community center, and an onsite Head Start program.

In 2006, Sister Diane retired from Esperanza. She is currently working with the Development Department of the Sisters of Social Service and is a member of the strategy team of the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice.

Sister Diane has received many awards and accolades for her work — including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing, the UCLA Alumni Award for Community Service, the 2007 UCLA Alumnus of the Year Award, the Empowerment Award from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, an Honorary Doctorate from Occidental College, and the 2002 national “Courage in Community” Award from the McAuley Institute.