Editor’s note: We are proud to continue our latest blog series, “The Women of KidWorks.” We celebrate the tireless women who generously serve at our centers each week. Some of these women also happen to be the mothers of our students! Their humility, perseverance and love touch our students, staff and volunteers each day. This week, we highlight one very special mom!
Raising five daughters quickly teaches a mom or dad how to overcome obstacles and get the job done. Just ask Maria Velazquez, a 10-year KidWorks volunteer, who puts those parenting skills to excellent use making her community safer.
She’s teamed up with other members of the KidWorks’ Community Parent Council, which consists of parents and community members, who work hard to do good in their Central Santa Ana community.
Two examples show Maria and her team’s positive impact:
Jerome Park is just blocks from our Townsend and Dan Donahue centers. Several years ago, most of the park lights were either broken or burned out. Gangs congregated at night, and families like Maria’s didn’t dare go there after dark. So, she and our Community Parent Council worked with the City Council and Parks and Recreation Department to have new lights installed and maintained. Now, families feel safer to relax at the park at a later time.
Then there is the dangerous intersection of McFadden Avenue and Raitt Street. The absence of a left turn light results in collisions between cars and pedestrians. In fact, a member of our Community Parent Council was hit, but thankfully fully recovered from her injuries. So Maria and her fellow parent council members worked with city officials to get a left turn light approved. It took three years but the light is set for installation in September 2016.
Maria has two daughters currently enrolled in our after-school programs, Joselyn, sixth grade, and Crystal, seventh grade (shown in photo). Maria and her family have lived on Townsend Street for 23 years, and are right across the street from our center there.
When Maria became aware of our programs, she enrolled her then 14-year-old daughter, Andrea (now 28-years-old).
“At the time, the neighborhood was very violent because of the gangs and drugs, and it still suffers in that way,” Maria says. “Before I enrolled Andrea, I really checked out KidWorks to make sure I felt it was a safe place.”
KidWorks quickly earned Maria’s trust and it wasn’t long before she was volunteering at the Townsend Street Center, cleaning the small apartment where classes were then held.
Since then, Maria has expanded the scope of her volunteer work at KidWorks, serving at both our Townsend and Dan Donahue Centers.
She is instrumental in the pre-planning of both our Myrtle and Townsend Street Resource Fairs, and also helps out on the day of the event by getting the word out into the neighborhood. She also prepares and sells food at the events, with proceeds going to support KidWorks programs.
“Maria has grown so much from those early days cleaning our center on Townsend,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator. “As part of her efforts to champion for the park lights and safer street intersection, she has spoken before the Santa Ana City Council, Santa Ana Unified School District Board and the Latino Heath Access organization.”
Sonia sums it up this way: “Maria is a parent for whom giving has no limit!”
By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer