Live United: Maria Torres
Maria Torres’s connection to Inland Empire United Way was formed during her time working with San Bernardino County 211 as a Quality Assurance and Special Projects Coordinator. As part of the leadership team, she was able to shape the emerging 211 organization, creating the infrastructure for intern and volunteer programs. She spent several hours training these volunteers and interns how to refer people to necessary services and help change lives.
“Many of the people I’ve trained have gone through extremely challenging circumstances and survived. One woman in particular, Cynthia Torres, had a life-changing experience. She worked incredibly hard and managed to turn her life around and gain a meaningful career with 211. I saw her morph from a cocoon to a butterfly.” The support that Maria offered was a tribute to the challenges that she overcame growing up in poverty with a difficult home life. Her achievements speak highly of her resilience and desire to support others as they recover.
Helping Others Rise
Maria’s family came to the U.S. when she was just seven years old. As a child, she spoke little English and worked hard to gain fluency and acceptance in her new homeland despite an unhappy home. “I rarely saw my mom. She worked 19 hours a day to make sure that my brother and I had a roof over our heads. Because she was undocumented, the work that she found was not well paid and my brother and I had breakfast and lunch at school during the week with no dinner. On the weekends we relied on instant soup to get us through.”
Maria’s father constantly threatened her mother with deportation, trapping Maria’s mother in a situation that was physically and emotionally abusive. At 14, Maria put her father behind bars and ended the abuse her family suffered. She managed to transform her life completely as she grew older, excelling academically and finding support through community organizations as well as friends. She joined the wrestling team and Colton Police Explorers in high school to help her cope with feelings of powerlessness. “I boxed for two years through the Colton Police League. I went for ride-alongs and learned what it means to serve and protect,” Maria remembers.
How Maria Lives United
Maria currently works as an agent for New York Life, but at the heart of her job lies a dream of returning to the non-profit world. “I want to align my vision and life with my profession,” shares Maria. “Helping young women affected by trauma find their voices and self-worth through art is crucial to healing.” Her next step is to use her own experience recovering from trauma to assist young women in juvenile hall through an organization called Women Wonder Writers.
Maria Lives United through her work with Women United and her commitment to social justice. Her ability to connect with community members led to her role as a community organizer and passage of Senate Bill 1252 to expand the foster youth’s access to transitional housing. Maria sums up her accomplishments humbly, “Lending a hand to those who are afraid to speak up is part of being human. If you can make a difference for one person, then it’s all worth it.”
Volunteers and donors like Maria are the lifeblood of IEUW. Click here to find out more about Women United and make the commitment to #LiveUnited.