Jan 30The Magic of Mercy Housing: Meet Maria, Resident Services Manager
The Magic of Mercy Housing: Meet Maria, Resident Services Manager
Growing up, Mercy Housing Resident Services Manager, Maria Cabrera wanted to be a doctor. She loved science. She also loved the outdoors. She learned through Girl Scouts how to connect with the community, which turn out, benefitted her as she grew up.
Maria and her family moved to the United States when she was one. When she was 13, her family moved from Brooklyn, NY to Florida, where her great-grandfather, a doctor, and great-aunt would be celebrated and recognized for their commitment to the community. Their influence wasn’t lost on a young Maria, who had always felt passionate about giving back.
“My cousin put together a family album and I learned about my family,” Maria recently shared. “Most of my family worked as farmers. My grandfather was the oldest of 24 children, and my mom is the oldest of 15.”
New York State of Mind
After she married, Maria moved back to New York, but this time to upstate New York, where she opened an adult-care facility, which was home to eight seniors. “I didn’t like what I had seen when I worked in nursing homes,” she explained. The residents became like family to her. But in a town that lacked diversity, neighbors started talking and complaining about whom they thought Maria was helping. A lawsuit was filed against Maria by residents and the case when on to be argued in front of the New York State Supreme Court.
“The New York Civil Liberties Union had heard about the case and reached out to me because they wanted to represent me,” she said. Maria would go on to win the case and run her adult-care community for nine years.
In 2005, Maria and her family relocated to Colorado. “We moved mainly because of the colleges in the area and the skiing,” she noted. Following the move, she decided to pursue her Master of Science degree and worked as a nurse in both the ER and OR for 15 years.
Mercy Housing Comes Calling
In 2018, Maria was hired to be the Resident Services Manager for Mercy Housing. She asked herself, “how much more stressful can this be from working in the ER for so many years,” sharing that the key to managing those stressful days is a combination of “time and stress management.”
Her ability to take each day as it comes has rubbed off on her co-workers too.
“Maria has helped me in so many ways. She is great to have in on a brainstorming meeting. She helps me to see better the perspective of Resident Services and residents. She reminds me to stay calm and to see the bright side of any situation,” said Ellen Abrams, V.P. of Regional Philanthropy, Mercy Housing Mountain Plains.
Arielle, a Resident Services Coordinator for Mercy Housing Mountain Plains, added, “One of my favorite things about Maria is her encouragement. Even when situations are tough, Maria remains strong and encourages the team! One of the things I admire most about Maria is her patience and ability to remain kind. She has always made me feel like a part of the team!”
Mercy Housing Resident Services and Programs
Instead of working with seniors only, as she did in the community, she started in New York, Maria now oversees Mercy Housing’s site staff and onsite programs and services for youth, family, and senior residents. She mentions a grant that Mercy Housing Mountain Plains’ Holly Park had received which provided cooking classes for youth. “Kids learned how to cook from a chef and at the end of the class, received a cheffing certificate.”
One of Mercy Housing’s most popular Out-of-School-Time programs is the annual Fishing for Hip Hop, which is offered to Mercy Housing kiddos in Colorado. Maria was introduced to Malik Wilder, founder of Fishing for Hip Hop through a mutual contact and the two went to work creating a fun summer day for the kids. Now in its third year, Malik volunteered his time and fishing talents, to introduce the kids to the art of fishing. With help from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department, the children learned about the basics of fishing, water safety, and outdoor skills. They even went home with their very own spin rods and reels!
When Maria isn’t working, you can usually find her outside exploring the beauty of Colorado. Whether it’s climbing one of the state’s infamous 14ers, taking advantage of a fresh snowfall, or spending a weekend pitching a tent under a beautiful summer night, she is an avid outdoorswoman. And she loves to share her passion for the outdoors with others.
As Maria’s co-worker and friend, Carol shares, “You will never get lost when you hike with Maria, and you will meet new friends that share the same interest. I really like how Maria stays grounded by hiking, camping, fishing and just enjoying life.”
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