Irene – a woman determined to rewrite her family’s future with the practical support of Santa Maria.

Originally from Honduras, Irene arrived in the United States two years ago with her partner, Cesar, and their young son, Alexander, seeking better job opportunities and hoping to build a brighter future for their family. When Irene became pregnant with her second child, Cesar, she learned about the assistance available through Santa Maria’s Every Child Succeeds (ECS) program. After being connected with Ellen Molander, Santa Maria ECS Bilingual Family Support Worker, Irene was also enrolled in Santa Maria’s Stable Families program, where she was paired with Francesca Phillis, Bilingual Stable Families Coordinator. Both family advocates became crucial pillars in her pursuit of stability.

Living in cramped conditions with her sister’s family, Irene’s family faced overwhelming challenges, but Santa Maria was able to help them find stable housing in the same complex as her sister so they could stay close to family. Ellen accompanied Irene to meet the complex manager, assisted with translation, and helped explain the contract. ECS supplied the deposit to secure the apartment. Through Santa Maria’s partnership with The Apartment Association Outreach, Stable Families was able to offer further rental assistance. Irene said her proudest moment was moving into her own place in the United States.

Through funds from Project LIFT (Lifting and Investing in Families Thriving), Santa Maria provided furniture to furnish her new apartment. Project LIFT, funded through the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, offers critical short-term assistance and support, as well as other resources, to families in need. Irene received a sofa, coffee table, lamps, kitchen chairs, and a welcome home bag from New Life Furniture Bank through those funds. Francesca also took Irene to the OneSource Center for Nonprofit Excellence to pick out other needed items.

With housing secured, Ellen and Irene were able to work together on parenting skills and helping her children achieve their developmental and health milestones. “Irene is a hard worker and very motivated to be a good mom and provide for her children,” Ellen said. The pair also worked on preventive healthcare and improving self-sufficiency. Irene was able to save money, thanks to receiving free diapers through Santa Maria’s partnership with Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank. In addition, Santa Maria facilitated a referral for Adopt-A-Family through the Salvation Army, bringing Christmas joy to Irene’s family with essentials like clothing, diapers, gift cards, and toys for the children.

Throughout her journey with Santa Maria, Ellen and Francesca witnessed Irene’s evolution from a reserved individual to a confident, empowered mother. Together, they worked on tangible goals – securing stable housing, Medicaid, and SNAP benefits, learning to drive, and mastering English. For the latter, Ellen recommended that Irene start attending English as a Second Language classes at Santa Maria.

Irene’s story is a testament to real challenges, hard work, and the impact of tangible support. Her dreams are grounded – maintaining a stable living environment, continuing her English studies, and learning to drive for greater independence. Irene said that her future is much “bigger and better, and there is more space for opportunities,” thanks to help from Santa Maria. With ongoing support from Santa Maria, Irene is creating fundamental, impactful changes in the lives of her family.