Nicole Maes-Gonzales, Co-Executive Director of Gerard’s House
Nicole Maes-Gonzales’ connection to our Santa Fe community, life, and death runs deep. Born in San Diego, California, she grew up here in Santa Fe. She wrote a lot as a child, primarily short stories and that is clear as she describes her history and life growing up. Nicole is open and generous. She admits with a laugh that she either shares too much or nothing at all (a trait many of us may share).
Work and drive began early for her. Her mother worked in insurance sales for Berardinelli Funeral Home and Nicole worked at Berardinelli as well, starting as a teen and leaving after 15 years of service there. Her life has been fast forward until now, where she’s able to slow down and focus on her passions and what she loves to do.
Interestingly, Berardinelli provided the seed money for Gerard’s House. This local non-profit provides grief support to children and adults, along with support for homeless youth, assistance to teen parents and their children, and suicide prevention. Nicole is the current Co-Executive Director of Gerard’s house after years of serving as a volunteer in multiple capacities. She explains, “I try to provide young girls and boys with opportunities that I didn’t have at that age around grief service.”
Her life was impacted by the death of loved ones many times: her father, her mother, and her brother. “When you live in poverty and are a person of color, grief is a part of your life.” While this fact is a part of her story, it’s not the only thing that defines her. She is a business owner, a volunteer, and a mother just to name a few things. She started Cloud 9 Creamery, an ice cream shop where she mentored young women from charter schools on women-owned businesses and what that entails.
Nicole knows firsthand the importance of mentoring relationships and safe community spaces for youth. She attended Girls Inc. of Santa Fe and was also in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. Going to Girls Inc. exposed her to a multitude of different and diverse people. Her Big Sister with BBBS bought her a new dress and shoes and took her to the ballet which fostered a love of theatre and ballet to this day.
Grief, loss, and trauma are difficult topics for people. Nicole shows us that they are worth holding, acknowledging, and working with and that they shouldn’t slow us down. To ignore it means ignoring the pain that many people experience, especially young people. Guiding and mentoring others with compassion leads to amazing outcomes.