At the heart of Ciudad Nueva is our passion to be a place where the community serves the community. One place where this passion is lived out is through our Food Co-Op, which is led by our own Alma Martinez. Alma radiates warmth and compassion and has steered our program through a pandemic, demonstrating the steadfast care of a servant’s heart.
Alma came to Ciudad Nueva three years ago. Her nephew had been enrolled in our youth program. She had heard that it was a safe place for kids to develop healthy relationships and get dependable guidance on life and enrolled her children as well. Thankful for the work the team was doing for the community’s youth, Alma decided to volunteer to give back, helping in many ways including helping with the Food Co-Op, cooking for community dinners, organizing a community yard sale, and more. She contributed her time and resources with gladness because she could see that the work was making a difference.
Alma had the giving heart and passion we strive for on our team and so we invited Alma to join our staff. Since she started, she has made a big impact as a Community Connector and as the Food Co-Op Coordinator.
When the pandemic began, Alma was struck by the giving and support displayed by our neighbors. “Thankfully, our volunteers are really hard workers,” she said. “I really appreciate everything they have done.” Ciudad Nueva’s community partners and connectors stepped outside of their comfort zones by donating and picking up donations in person. Volunteers masked up and carried on the work with bravery. Alma reflected on how much the Food Co-Op was needed, and provided by, our community.
Our neighbors take care of each other, in the good and bad times.
Our holistic approach to serving our neighborhood community is informed by years of experience in hearing the needs of the community and empowering the community to serve others. The way Alma Martinez describes it, “The Co-Op isn’t just food donations. We care for each other. We keep in contact with everybody. No matter what it is they need, we are here to help them.” Through our Co-Op, a door is opened to feed the spiritual and emotional hunger we encounter, in addition to feeding physical bodies. Our holistic approach cares for body, mind, and spirit. Alma’s experience has taught her that sometimes a person may simply need a listening ear. It isn’t always easy to start a relationship, though.
“Sometimes they’re shy or scared,” Alma stated. “But little by little, we get closer to them and can grow the relationship. We support each other.”
Alma was particularly affected by the compassion shown by her neighbors when a member of our Food Co-Op was struck by tragedy. Grieving the loss of a family member, the Co-Op member was showered with grace, life-giving words and gestures, and overwhelming support. Our community’s Co-Op members came together to care for her during this difficult time, even during the pandemic. Many of the people who came to support her had never met her — this is the very essence of “community serving community.” As Alma put it, “We’re a big family, even though we’re not blood. Good things and bad things happen, and we are here.”
Our neighborhood’s Food Co-Op foster an environment where our community is empowered to support each other in so many ways. Food is just the first link in the chain. We are so thankful to be able to witness our neighbors set the table for each other through this program. What gets us out of bed in the morning is seeing neighbors become friends and seeing these friends become empowered to serve each other in love. We don’t just distribute food. We live life together. Because of the hard work of Alma Martinez, this important work is made possible.
With an infectious smile (even while wearing a mask) and a listening ear, Alma’s message resonates with all of us here at Ciudad Nueva — body, mind, and spirit, we care for each of our neighbors dearly.