Mariflor Ventura hits the headlines earlier this year for helping his neighbors in Buckingham during the pandemic.
Nicknamed an “Arlington superwoman” by ABC 7, Ventura found and distributed donations and distributed food and basic supplies for a year – a life-changing experience.
But now she is drowning in gifts and giving in under the weight of unyielding need. Nonetheless, Ventura is determined to give a helping hand to people who have gone through difficult times and is looking for ways to structure and sustain its work.
“I love Arlington,” she said. “Whatever I can do, I am here. “
Ventura, who is a bus attendant at Arlington Public Schools, began helping neighbors last year during closures when the school was virtual. Through a local Facebook group, she found items for free and distributed them to her neighbors.
The network grew rapidly, especially after giving an interview in Spanish, which reached immigrant communities as far as Woodbridge.
“This year has been busier than when I started,” she said. “I’m going to have to take a vacation with donations to spend time with my kids. “
Eventually, Ventura migrated its “Arlington Neighbors” Facebook operation group to herself Buckingham Mutual Aid Organization Arlington group. She recently started a Amazon Wish List to facilitate in-kind donations.
“I stopped fundraising because I don’t want to manage the money,” which could expose her to criticism of how it’s spent, she said.
Amazon’s wishlist goes beyond the basics. There are decorations for families to throw graduation parties for their older children and bubble wands, water guns and coloring books to keep the kids busy this summer.
All of these ideas came from members of the Facebook group, she said.
“They have great ideas and they love to help,” she said.
But Ventura has its own wishlist: a separate area for donations, a nonprofit designation, and a regular assistant to keep track of appointments and help distribute items.
She envisioned the now vacant apartment downstairs from her. Even the nearest warehouse is far away, and the move can confuse people used to coming to her. There was talk of finding a church basement, but it failed, she said.
As it stands, her house is full of donated items waiting to be donated.
“There is no space to clean – there is a very small space where we watch TV in the dining room,” she said. “Some days I give up and say, ‘I’m not going to do anything. I’ll just try to relax.
She laughs. “Normally I am a very organized woman. My mother taught me to choose my clothes for the next day.
Ventura said some connections are working to transform the organization into a nonprofit, but it will take some time. In the meantime, she imagines creating a kind of free thrift store.
The Arlingtonian knows what it’s like to have nothing. At one point, Ventura lost her job, her apartment, and her car. But someone opened the door for her to start working in the county, and she rose through the ranks.
“In my experience, I can help more people,” she said.
She said it is difficult for many immigrants to adjust to life in the United States – to find a job, seek help, or just feel comfortable visiting a park.
“I hear from them that it is their dream to come here, but when they come, they [realize] it’s not easy to live here, ”she says. “It’s hard to find a job and if you don’t have a family here, it’s more difficult. It’s like they’re stuck. Someone has to help them up.
Ventura said his neighbors also returned the favor.
“It’s not like I’m the hero,” she said. “They see how I help and they help me in return.