By Diamond Richardson
DALLAS— For most people, it was a regular day in February, but for Leticia Marquez, a cold day in the beginning of February is the day she will forever remember as the day that changed her life.
Walking into Buckner’s Wynnewood Community Services Center, Marquez, who everyone calls Leti, felt apprehensive. She was not used to asking for help; she was typically the one to help others. But she knew she desperately needed it.
Marquez fled her home in Mission, Texas a few weeks before Christmas last year to escape an abusive home situation with her husband. Her daughter, Gabby, joined her later when Marquez got a job. Marquez also had had her grandson with her.
“We had nothing … nothing. I was embarrassed, I had never been through anything like that before,” she said. “I was like, ‘God, I need somebody, I need help … I need guidance.’”
Marquez’s brother, who lives in the Dallas area, offered her a place to stay so she could get on her feet. Despite a promising outlook, the situation quickly took a bad turn.
“When we got here, my brother and my daughter did not get along. He would call my grandson mean names, it was horrible.”
Marquez knew she had to find somewhere else to live but did not know where to look. Gabby found out about Wynnewood Community Services Center from a friend and told her mom. Marquez admits she was scared about coming for the first time, but said Buckner’s friendly staff immediately made her feel welcome.
“Ms. Cheryl told me, ‘We are not here to judge anybody, we are just here to help.’ They have been good to me and no one has been good to me before,” she said.
Cheryl Williams, Buckner director of Wynnewood Community Services Center, said Leti made an equally strong first impression on the Wynnewood employees as they had on Leti.
“Leti came in with ambition; she was trying to get a job and get on her feet. So we wanted to help her,” Williams said. “We don’t give hand-outs, we give hand-ups”
Getting it together
Marquez was able to move out of her brother’s house into her own apartment at Wynnewood but had no furniture.
“We laid out blankets and just slept on the floor,” she said. “My back was killing me and my daughter was pregnant.”
Williams remembered a woman who had offered to donate a dining room set a few weeks ago. At the time, no one needed it, but Williams connected the woman with Marquez. The next day the woman delivered the set to Marquez’s door. A few weeks later, Williams received an e-mail from someone looking to donate a 5-year-old king mattress and box spring that was also delivered to Marquez’s door. Williams took Marquez to Buckner’s Center for Humanitarian Aid to find lamps, chairs and tables to put the finishing touches on her apartment.
“I thank God for Ms. Cheryl. Without her, I don’t know what I would have done,” Marquez said.
Although Marquez’s need for furniture was dire, Williams wanted to make sure she still had nice things.
“It was important that Leti had nice, matching furniture,” she said. “When you give someone stuff, you give them dignity. You give them respect.”
Wynnewood employees also helped Marquez get a job transfer. She was working 45 minutes away at a Walgreens in Plano. They were able to talk to Walgreens managers in the area and get Leti transferred to a closer location within days.
Williams said she was easily able to sympathize with Marquez’s situation, and hoped Wynnewood would be a place she could start fresh.
“I want this to be a place of transformation and new beginnings, and a non-judgmental safe place to land. In reality any of us are a paycheck or a layoff away from struggling too,” Williams said.
Serving with a purpose
Despite her own difficult circumstances, Marquez never lost her desire to serve others.
“I am trying to forget about the past; I don’t understand why, but I have to keep going. I told God, I want to be in a place where I can serve you.”
Wynnewood ended up being that place. Marquez has volunteered at the Clothes Rack Ministry, served food at the Community Health Fair and spent her days off cleaning the windows of her apartment complex. Around the community center, Marquez is known for bringing taquitos for the employees.
“She is always trying to fatten us up,” Williams said, laughing.
Marquez spreads her goodwill outside of Wynnewood as well. She recently offered to translate at a co-worker’s garage sale because she lives in a predominantly Hispanic area.
“I just want this to look nice and be nice for all of us here,” Marquez said when discussing her work for the community. She’s extending the blessings given to her to as many people as she can.
A place to call home
Marquez has been a blessing to the community center not only through her volunteering but also through her happy spirit, Williams said.
“When people take ownership of their lives, they give back like Leti has done,” Williams said. “A blessing begets a blessing. People buy into the vision. People we have helped come back and want to help, just to say thank you.”
Marquez’s days today look much different than her rocky past. She now works at Chico’s and on her days off spends time with her grandson and volunteering.
Marquez said her husband still calls asking her to come back home and credits the support system she has gained at Wynnewood for helping her resist the pressure.
While discussing her situation, Marquez’s face has traces of sadness but she lights up when she gives a final comment on why Buckner means more to her than furniture and financial assistance.
“Buckner has meant hope and service. Even if we do move, I will still come back and volunteer at this center. I feel good when I am here. This is my home.”
To learn more about the ways you can support families and help people get back on their feet, call Buckner Foundation at 214-758-8000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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