The Community Foundation for San Benito County recently hosted National Philanthropy Day, an event that brought together community groups, nonprofit organizations, local business, and philanthropic volunteers. The night was filled with extraordinary people who strive, every day, to make a difference in the community, and one particular San Benito County resident, Mirian Martinez, epitomizes the meaning of volunteerism.
As the keynote speaker, Martinez captivated the crowd by sharing her personal story of what it’s like to be born and raised in Hollister with a giving heart. As a proud San Benito High School Haybaler (Class of 2007) and proud alumni from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (Class of 2013), Mirian works as a Design Engineer for Willis Construction in San Juan Bautista.
At a young age, humility, vitality, integrity, and moral responsibility were concepts engrained by her parents. While in elementary school, Martinez volunteered her time with special-needs children. Middle school found her covering graffiti around town, and then, during high school, Martinez became president of MEChA (an organization that seeks to promote Chicano unity and empowerment), vice president of LULAC (an organization that focuses on the economic and educational advancement of the Latino population), and co-editor-in-chief of the yearbook.
Martinez continues to find ways to better serve and help others. Her upbringing in Hollister and cultural values continue to serve her as key motivators for giving and contributing in our wonderful community.
Those same cultural values and traditions instilled in the people of El Salvador have undoubtedly reached far beyond its region. Her consistency to help others stems from her parents and her culture. She said, “I don’t believe the spirit of being a volunteer knows color, religion, or borders–it just doesn’t discriminate. Enlight of all the bad in the world, we, as people, genuinely help others because we are caring, compassionate, and loving.”
She continued, “Seven years ago, I was invited to participate in an annual event called Baja Challenge, similar to Habitat for Humanity, in Tecate, Mexico. Every year several teams come together to build homes in a 12-hour construction day. Over the years, the changes I have witnessed have been nothing short of amazing. For example, this year, 17 homes were built on October 3rd, which means that 17 more families now have a roof over their heads for the winter.
“This year I decided to lead my own team. The response I got from our community to support my fundraising efforts was astonishing! I had become worried about being able to raise funds for all that was necessary to pay for the materials. I also worried that I would not be able to obtain all the items needed for this project.
“From the wonderful support of my community I was given a platform that allowed me to raise awareness and support for this cause. La Catrina Mexican Cantina Grill kindly allowed me to host a fundraising event open to the public, which brought in over $2,000 in one night. In addition, I’m blessed to work for a company that is very charitable and agreed to donate a portion of the funds. Then using social media as a tool, I reached out and asked for items that we still needed. In just one week we received all donations necessary to complete our project. Knowing that the spirit of giving can be so contagious, and hoping that I can continue to affect others with this ‘affliction of volunteerism,’ definitely keeps me going!”
A community leader in the making, Martinez, exemplifies a young individual that has been enriched by a great community. Her personal traits and character complement her sense of maturity and ability to lead by example. She is a promising young woman with a bright future ahead. If you want to support Martinez, you may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She ended her presentation at the Philanthropy Dayevent with the following: “The fact that every single one of us here tonight represents an organization that is helping in one way or another gives, our community much hope and pride! There are needs all over the world. Always keep in mind the little things you do can have a rippling effect, which can cause bigger changes than you can ever imagine. I am currently a volunteer for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates of San Benito County) where I advocate for a beautiful 8-year-old. I help fundraise for the Make-A-Wish foundation of the greater bay area, run to raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and participate every year in Baja Challenge. There are many other causes I want to help with in the future while applying my engineering knowledge. My biggest fear is that I will run out of time for all the things I want to accomplish. As human beings, all we have to do is decide that we want to be different and make the choice that we want to make a positive impact. Like the quote in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho–one of my favorite books, ‘And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ So let’s get out there and continue making great things happen! Thank you and may God bless you all.”