It was an unusual cold winter in Peñitas, Texas. Marcela Alanis' two sons, ages 3 and 6, needed showers, so she bundled them up in blankets, stepped outside their warm one-room home and carried them to a little trailer on their property, the only place they had water or a kitchen.
After their showers, she carried them back to the warmth of their home. But when her boys got bronchitis, transporting them back and forth between the two dwellings in the cold only caused their illness to linger. They needed help and they needed it fast. That's when Marcela found Buckner, and their lives have never been the same.
Marcela and her husband, Horacio Treviño, are not afraid of hard work. They came to Peñitas from Mexico to avoid the crime that was increasing rapidly where they lived. They already had relatives in Texas and saw the opportunities if they were willing to work for them. Horacio worked as a mechanic, and eventually they bought a plot of land. They lived in a trailer until they could afford to build a permanent home. It leaked when it rained and the flimsy walls did little to keep out the cold.
Slowly, they started to build a home. They finished one room and started the kitchen but had to stop when they ran out of money. Though there wasn't any water or a kitchen, their one-room home was a better living situation than their trailer. They lived and slept in their home and went to the trailer to cook and bathe. It worked – until the boys got sick.
"Back then, I wasn't forgetting my faith, but I was slipping," Marcela said. "I wondered if God was still working for us."
That's when she met a family coach from Buckner. He was passing through the neighborhood and introducing people to Buckner programs. He connected the family with a volunteer group who helped them finish building their kitchen. Shortly after, the family began taking classes at the Buckner Family Hope Center.
"When we went to the Family Hope Center, I felt like somebody cared for us," Marcela said. "They get involved with people, and you know it's genuine what they do for you because they care. And they showed me that God loves us. Now, I have a lot of faith in God, and he always takes care of us."
Today, six years later, Marcela and her family are still actively involved in the Family Hope Center, giving back as much as they receive. Marcela takes classes at the center – she learned to sew and how to build a garden. In some of the classes, she assists the teachers and is often volunteering at events, helping moms who are in the situation she once was. Her husband now owns an auto repair shop, is a graduate of the Family Hope Center's fatherhood class and helps Marcela with their children.
Through the classes and family coaching program, Marcela also discovered another talent: baking. Thinking she would like to start a home bakery, she bought an industrial grade Kitchen Aid mixer with points she obtained volunteering at the Family Hope Center and completed DreamBuilder, an online tutorial about operating a business. In addition to the interactive courses, she was given access to tools and templates to use for her own business venture.
Now she is starting to bake cakes and other pastries to sell. Her hard work is already reaping rewards.
"I really like baking," Marcela said. "And now I have clients. And I won second prize for a business plan so I got awarded $500 to invest in my business. I make sure to keep learning new techniques and take online classes as I can."
And this summer, the family received a new home through Buckner Domestic Missions from points the family obtained through volunteering and participating in classes and family coaching. The new house, the nicest dwelling they have ever lived in, was built for them by volunteers from Woodlawn Baptist Church in Austin.
"It's a blessing to see a family like Marcela, Horacio and their children in a safe and stable living environment," said Rebecca Ruiz, community coordinator for the Family Hope Center in Peñitas. "They have worked hard for years toward their goals of self-sustainability and are constantly helping others in their community as well. Marcela is a faithful volunteer and her warm presence at events is an encouragement to everyone around her."