Maria Marquez has been homeless, but never hopeless; in need, but never afraid to help; stymied, but never defeated.
And finally, after a difficult journey that has taken her from country to country, state to state, and at times, homeless shelter to homeless shelter, Marquez’s inexhaustible optimism was rewarded.
Welcomed by the applause and tears of friends and family who’d watched her do so much with all too little, on August 23d, Marquez walked into her brand-new, 3-bedroom house located in the Alamosa Neighborhood.
The site facilitator at Kirtland Korner Community Learning Center, an APS before and afterschool program at Kirtland ES, Marquez recently became a first-time homeowner thanks to the Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity (GAHH).
“It really was an honor supporting Maria and Arianna (her daughter, an APS student) with their endeavors to get a home from Habitat for Humanity,” said Daphne Strader, a friend and co-worker. “Maria always goes above and beyond to help others, so, giving back to someone who is so community and service minded was really a gift to us.”
Maria decided to attend a GAHH information session as translation support for families that she works with at Kirtland. It wasn’t until the end of the third consecutive evening of attending an information session, did Maria realize that she, herself, met all of the qualifications of an ideal Partner Family applicant.
“There are often misconceptions of what we look for an ideal Partner Family,” said Lori Valdez, GAHH Board Member and APS Human Resources Manger. “Selection is based on key factors, along with the willingness to partner (contribute sweat equity hours and maintain home), the ability to pay (contribute to down payment and maintain post-occupancy housing expenses), and residency requirements.”
After spending three days offering translation support services for interested families at the information sessions, Maria had captured the attention of the GAHH staff, and they encouraged her to apply.
“She kind of just does that — everywhere,” said Strader. “She’s a force to be reckoned with. If she sees someone who needs something, she is there. If someone needs translation assistance, she will start helping before anyone even recognizes the need. That is just her nature. And people recognize that.”
All Partner Families are required to contribute at least 500 hours of sweat equity to the build of their own home. Maria contributed more than 250 hours personally, and was overwhelmed to receive more than 250 hours of equal support and assistance from her family, friends, and APS coworkers.
For the dedication of Maria’s house, nearly one hundred family members, friends and coworkers came out to cheer Maria on and welcome her and Arianna home.
“Maria has passion and a strong rapport with the community,” said Kristine Gracey, Director of APS’ Coordinated School Health Department. “It was only fitting that I, like others in the community would welcome the opportunity to help Maria and her family with their Habitat for Humanity Home. It was an honor to assist this remarkable woman and her family.”
Maria’s only regret? That her two eldest children, both boys starting families of their own, didn’t have this house while they were growing up. But don’t worry. She is very excited to help raise her grandchildren here – and she will tell you herself, a bigger house only means more space for growing families