Maria is easy to pick out of a crowd, with her loud purple hair and outgoing personality. She can often be found sporting a bright red “Giant” t-shirt while at Water Street. She’ll come straight from work to put in some extra hours volunteering at the Outreach Center, our food distribution center.
Volunteering is a way to give back for Maria, but it’s also a reminder of how far she’s come. “To volunteer here gives me so much joy…I feel like I’m at home.”
Water Street Mission was quite literally home for Maria once. As a survivor of domestic abuse, she knows firsthand the painful journey taken by local men and women to overcome fear and manipulation.
“To volunteer here gives me-Maria
so much joy…I feel like
I’m at home.”
In some ways, it took a team effort to help Maria out of her situation. Different shelters found room for her when she needed it. And with eight children, space was important. “That’s how come I love Lancaster. I don’t know the names of the people, but I know there is no place like this place.”
Maria would find temporary housing to get away from him, a man who went so far as to burn down their home one time. “That man,” she says, “I mean, I’m alive ‘cause God is good.”
For years her life was the definition of chaos. But then, Maria made a choice. She met a Water Street Health Services doctor who she now says saved her life. After her doctor recognized some suspicious injuries, she bravely asserted ‘You’re not going back home.’ Finally, Maria agreed. “And there I started the whole process of Maria finding Maria,” she says. “Because we had been together from the age of 11 turning 12 to the age of 37.”
That change in her life has given her the perspective to encourage other women she meets along the way, challenging them to make the tough choices that help in the long run. “At the end of the day, you put yourself there, so it’s gonna take you to get you out. Nobody else is gonna be able to get you out cause if you have somebody to get you out, you’ll go right back in.”
Maria’s story is a testament to the impact a community can have when we’re open to helping one another. Now she and her family are on a safer trajectory. Thank you for praying, giving, and volunteering to fuel powerful stories like this!