By Cristy Martinez, Sex Trafficking Survivor Counselor for Family Counseling Services.
I came to Lubbock in May of 2015 because of my husband’s job. At that time, I was a counseling student in New Mexico with two children and we had just taken in my niece and nephew who weren’t living in the best environment. I became a mom of four kids in a matter of months, and my marriage was unhealthy. I wasn’t sure how I could manage graduate school and kids, but I knew it had to be done.
In January of 2016, I started my internship at Family Counseling Services (FCS). It was the first time I felt like I truly belonged somewhere. I had the opportunity to provide counseling to people in our community who otherwise could not afford it.
A year and a half later, my husband and I decided that it would be best to separate. Two months after that, I lost my job. So now I was a single mom with no job and no resources to assist with my separation. To say my family and I struggled is an understatement. That whole time I continued to volunteer my time at FCS, seeing clients and leading substance abuse groups. Then in March of last year, my director at FCS called and offered me a full-time position as their new Sex Trafficking Survivor Counselor.
For the first time in a long time, I felt hope, real hope. I would be able to provide for my family and continue supporting individuals in need in our community.
After taking the new position, I began learning more about United Way and their Community Partners; how they impact the community and provide a light for those who are struggling, not unlike myself. It was during an agency fair that I learned about the Legal Aid Society of Lubbock and how I could apply for assistance. They were so amazing, and I had a real say in every step of the process.
As some of you may know, being a single parent is a scary, intimidating position to be in, and I consistently felt like I was stumbling through every day. Then one evening, my 7-year-old daughter with autism came home with the book The Little Red Fort. A group of United Way volunteers had come to her school earlier in the day, read to the kids and made a paper bag fort with them as part of United Way’s first United We Read. Somehow my daughter connected with this experience in a way I couldn’t comprehend but appreciated, nonetheless. Every night since, she has pulled out this book, and we read together, along with my 4-year-old son. It gives us time to silence the outside noise and to bond in a way that I worried we’d never get back.
You see, United Way with the help of hard-working people like yourselves, helps fund the agency that gave me a job, and helps fund the organization that assisted my family in our need, and helped fund the program that gave me hope as a mom.
United Way has given me and you the opportunity to do the same for others. We truly have something special here in Lubbock where we can all rise together so no one stands alone, and I would bet that’s unrivaled anywhere else.