Maria Saenz’s garage doesn’t have cars in it. For a while, it was a game room for her teenage children and their friends. That changed last fall when she cleared it out to make way for something else.
At the time, she was working for a law firm and was asked to bring papers to sign to a client’s residence. Saenz knocked on the door of the single mom’s one-bedroom apartment, where the woman and her eight children lived.
The tiny space housed a lot of people, but not much in the way of worldly possessions. She couldn’t see any furniture. She felt for this struggling family and all they lacked.
“I went home and thought, ‘I have to do something,’” she said.
With the help of her family, Saenz loaded a living room set from the garage and some air mattresses from their camping gear, and delivered it all to the needy family.
“The kids’ facial expressions showed how they felt,” Saenz said.
It was a moment she would never forget.
From there on, Saenz realized she could do even more for this family if she asked for help from the community. After posting about it on community pages on Facebook, she soon received donations of other items the family desperately needed, like a playpen for the baby and clothing for the children.
“I sent picture of the finished rooms to those who donated,” Saenz said.
She then realized that with additional support, she could facilitate donations to others beyond just the one family.
So, Saenz started a Facebook page called “Maria’s Mission” on October 1, and has already amassed nearly 600 “likes.”
“I didn’t think it was going to take off,” she said.
But it did.
So much so that she quit her job. Now, her garage is full of donated items that will go to those in need. Saenz helps families all over the Valley by way of furniture, clothing, books, small appliances, toiletries and other home goods. And as of about a month ago, 100 families had received donated items.
When people come to her in search of something she doesn’t already have available — like a microwave, baby clothes or a bed — she asks for it on her Facebook page.
“Something as small as a bed to sleep in can make all the difference in someone’s life,” Saenz wrote on the “About” section on her Facebook page.
For Saenz, that hits close to home.
Nearly 20 years ago, Saenz merely 18, pregnant and alone. She slept on the floor.
“A coworker picked me up on the way to work, and she saw the conditions I was living in,” Saenz said. “She asked coworkers for donations, and by that weekend I had everything I needed.”
But receiving a bed and other essential items, while a huge blessing, was only part of the experience. When someone notices someone else’s situation and takes steps to help, that love and caring can be passed on.
That is why Saenz does what she does.
Though she used to spend a lot of time doing pick-ups and deliveries herself, it was ultimately too taxing for one person. Now, Saenz asks for those who donate or those in need to arrange drop-offs or deliveries when possible.
With how far things have come in such a short time, Saenz said it shows that people do want to help their fellow men. In fact, she wondered if there could be more of this type of thing throughout the Valley.
“Let’s get another one, she said. “The more people in the Valley we can help, the better.”