Not all heroes wear capes, and the philanthropic spirit of our community during the 2020 Giving Challenge helped to save the day for hundreds of at-risk children and families. During this time, our families were suddenly facing a crisis like never before due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Children First, 89% of families served live below the Federal Poverty Level, which is just $23,030 for a family of three. Even under the best of circumstances, our families are often the first to get hurt, are hurt the worst, and the last to recover. With hundreds of our parents facing reduced work hours and job loss as a result of the coronavirus, families began experiencing an even greater level of housing and food insecurity.
Utilizing the support from our community “superheroes” during the 2020 Giving Challenge, which took place on National Superhero Day, Children First was able to help families address issues immediately by providing assistance with rent or utilities and delivering critical supplies like food, diapers and wipes, and infant formula.
One of the families impacted by this crucial support was the Somera family. Maria and Jorge are loving parents to three bright and vivacious children, David (age 5), Anna (age 3), and Daniel (8 months). Originally from Mexico, the hard-working couple moved to Southwest Florida for better opportunities. The two worked diligently to rebuild their lives, fighting for self-sufficiency and facing unimaginable obstacles.
Eventually, they began a family of their own, and after their oldest child was diagnosed with a speech delay, they were directed to Children First. It was here that the children began receiving the high-quality education and care they needed to thrive, allowing Maria and Jorge to focus on their careers and continue their own education.
As small business owners, their lives were drastically changed when COVID-19 began impacting our community. With few opportunities for new clients and Maria now staying at home to care for the children, the family was soon struggling to keep up with bills.
The support of those who participated in the Giving Challenge became a lifeline for parents like Maria and Jorge. With utilities and rent assistance, as well as regular deliveries of “Angel Bags” with necessary food and supplies, the family has been able to get back on their feet. Their oldest child, David, moved on to Kindergarten confident and ready for success, where he continues to thrive. Anna is preparing to transition to the Head Start program and loves to explore new sensory connections, while baby Daniel has just started in the Early Head Start program.
Jorge is currently participating in the Nurturing Dads Class through the agency’s award-winning Families First Institute, inspired by Maria’s participation in several courses including Positive Solutions for Families.
Maria serves as Chair of the agency’s Policy Council after being unanimously re-elected for a second, consecutive term. As a passionate mother and leader, Maria is a strong advocate for children and families as a Parent Advisor for First 1,000 Days Suncoast and in her role on the Board of Directors for CenterPlace Health. During such an unprecedented and challenging time, she does not hesitate to lean into change and remains focused on service to others.
The families we serve are diverse, but they all have one thing in common: they are working hard to provide a better life, not only for their children, but for themselves and our community.
“Because of Children First, the Giving Challenge, and our incredible community of supporters, I know that I am no longer alone and that my family’s future is brighter than ever before. This is proof that with a little bit of support here, there, and everywhere, anyone can be successful. Thank you for being our superheroes!” -Maria Somera, Children First Parent and Policy Council Chair.