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‘I saw a man holding a sign, ‘Lost job, no family, need help.’ My heart dropped.’: Woman donates supplies to Texas homeless community

“Hi! My name is Danielle Martinez. I’m a 35-year-old mom of two beautiful daughters and the wife to an amazing and supporting husband of 12 years (21 years together, high school sweethearts).

Let me tell you how I became the person I am today. My childhood had many hardships. It was my mom, younger brother, and myself. My parents divorced when I was around 6 years old and my brother was roughly 1 year old. Growing up, my brother and I never asked for anything, because we knew we just could not afford it. There were many times when money was tight. I know our mom loved us because she did everything she could to make sure we had what we needed for school and other basic necessities. We would move periodically throughout the years, and even to another town for job opportunities for our mom.

woman smiling on couch
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

Once we made the big move, we thought it was a new beginning for a better life. Boy, were we wrong. After a year in our new home, we had to move because we couldn’t keep up with rent. We downsized into an apartment and by now, I was just starting high school as a freshman. Money and food were becoming less and less. My brother and I took advantage of the free breakfast and lunch at our schools.

This is when I met my husband. We were both in the high school band and he got a first-hand look at how my life was. But I also got a new perspective on how other families operate when I visited his family for the first time. This was the very first time in years I cried. I never knew an environment like his home existed until that day. I said it earlier, he is my number one supporter through all of this.

woman in a mask in the store
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

At the beginning of my sophomore year, my dad was sent to prison for the next 10 years and child support ceased. This was the moment I knew it was about to get difficult for us. There were many times when our electricity, gas, and water weren’t paid on time, or even at all. Let’s just say that we adapted really well to adversity. I was in athletics and would take showers in our girls’ locker room showers before school started and the same with my little brother. I would make sure he was all cleaned up before he had to jump on his bus to take him to school. I didn’t think any of it, I just did what I had to do. I never complained, never cried, never mentioned it to anyone.

I was very active in school-related activities. Athletics, band, after-school clubs, anything to keep me busy and away from home. Then, I took on my first job at a Mcdonald’s off a highway. It was about a 15-minute bicycle ride from where we lived at the time. Every payday, I would help with the things we needed. From clothing to food, whatever we needed, I was able to help a little. As time went on, I was starting to become worn. I was still involved in after-school activities such as band, athletics, and clubs.

I would get out of band rehearsal at 6 p.m., ride my bike to my job, try to do homework during my break, work until closing (12 a.m.), ride my bike home, finish up my homework, wake up at 5 a.m., get ready, head to school for my basketball practices at 6:45 a.m. This went on for a while until I spoke to my band director about quitting and that was the first time I just broke down and cried. It was like every ounce of stress and responsibility poured from me. My director was so understanding and worked with me so I wasn’t so overwhelmed. That was my first experience of kindness from others.

woman sewing
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

As I continued through high school, my family and I couch-surfed until my husband’s mom offered to take me in when my mom said we were moving back to our hometown. I was about to begin my last year of high school and didn’t want to go. That’s when his mom did the most selfless act of kindness I experienced and was the foundation of what I am today.

Time went on and I graduated and headed off to college with the help of my husband and his parents. My husband and I got engaged and then married a few years later.

The time now is 2011 and I was attending Texas State University-San Marcos, TX. Some medical technicians were on campus educating us on how donating plasma helps save lives and we get paid for it. They had me sold at ‘Getting paid.’ So a few friends and I decided to give it a try and everything worked out. The facility was nice, the staff were all professional and welcoming, and it was an overall good experience.

making a difference through kindness sign
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

As the semester went on, and we continued to periodically donate plasma, I noticed there was a woman who would always be in the area. She seems as though she was homeless. I would see her every time I would be arriving for my donation appointment, but she was gone once I was finished.

One day, I decided to head to the area surrounding the plasma facility to see if I could find her. I went back every day looking for her. I even skipped my donation appointments to see if I could see her. About a week went by and we finally met. I bought two meals from McDonald’s next door to the plasma center and walked up to her and asked if I may join her for a meal. Little did I know this moment right here would shape my future years to come. She welcomed me with such warmth and it was as though I was speaking with my grandma. Her eyes had so much beauty, her face showed nothing but love and kindness, and her smile always welcomed me. She shared her story with me and it brought me to tears. She was riding in the car with her husband and son. They got into a car accident and she survived. She didn’t have extended family in the states to help and aid her. Her name was Miranda and we became friends.

I continued to donate plasma twice a week, and I would buy lunch for both of us with the funds from the donation. We would meet four times a week and we would exchange stories about life, sadness, joys, accomplishments, dreams, etc. We didn’t know at the time, but we were meant to become friends. I would help her by buying hygiene necessities and other basic needs. I didn’t mind helping.

When I was in high school, I was a leader in a band and my director shared with us the story of everybody, somebody, anybody, and nobody. I would like to share it with you.

Whose Job Is It Anyway?

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

I apply this to every aspect of my life. If I see that someone needs help, I do not assume anyone will step up to do it. I’ve also learned throughout the years, people are scared at times and don’t want to be the first one to do or say something, because there’s a possibility of embarrassment or failure. I’m okay being that first one. I’m okay with being the one that reaches out to help others, even when I have no clue how I’m going to do it. With this said, when I saw Miranda, I just had to reach out to her.

woman in mask giving thumbs up
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

I continued to meet with Miranda for the next few months and before we knew it, 2 years of friendship had passed. It was the spring of 2013, I was to graduate from Texas State University at the end of May. I was excited to tell her the great news, but when I arrived at our meeting spot, she was nowhere to be found. I waited for about 2 hours but she never arrived. I had to leave to get back to class and returned the next day. When I drove up, there was a police officer parked where Miranda and I would sit. As I parked my car and got out, he approached me asking if I was Danielle and if I knew a Miranda. I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me she was ill in the hospital and requested he find and inform me.

We exchanged more words, got back in our vehicles, and I followed him to the hospital. He escorted me to Miranda’s room. My heart wasn’t prepared for what my eyes saw. She looked so frail. The beeping of the machines accompanied her shallow breaths. As I stood in the doorway, the officer said his goodbyes and walked off. My feet had never felt so heavy before and the walk up to her bed seemed prolonged. I walked up to her bedside. She opened her eyes and greeted me with the same warm smile. It turns out she had been battling cancer for years and never told me.

I never notice her looking ill or any signs of sickness. It just came on strong all of the sudden. She said she wanted to let me know where she was if I was looking for her and she was right, that was exactly what I was doing. She thanked me for taking that first step to approach and get to know her. She called me her family. I continued to visit her in the hospital for the next 2 weeks and my heart ached so much every time I stepped foot into the building. Within the month, her health declined and she passed away.

supplies in a car
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

Time went on. I continued to go to classes, graduated, moved to another city, my husband and I had little ones and Miranda would pop up in my mind ever so often. I was in Austin, TX driving around and taking care of errands. I was at a stoplight and I looked over to my left and saw a man holding a sign saying, ‘Lost job, no family, need help.’ My heart dropped and all of a sudden all of the memories of Miranda came pouring back into my mind. I felt a wave of emotions hit me like a bag of bricks. I was upset with myself for becoming blind to my surroundings. I felt such sadness because how could I forget all of the amazing people who reached out to my family during my childhood? It was right there and then when I decided to do something about it.

woman filling bags
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

So for the next 6 plus years, I made a decision to help those in need by making crafts such as crochet hats, beanies, scarfs, and meals. I would drive around Austin, TX passing them out to the homeless community. I would work on these during the summer so I would have them ready and enough for the winter. I found a plasma center close to us and began to donate again. I saw it as a two-birds-one-stone kind of deal. Helping others with my plasma donation and the homeless community with the funds.

woman sewing
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

February 13, 2020. The news of the Covid-19 hit every state in the United States. March 4, 2020, the first case of Covid-19 in Texas. March 13, 2020, state-wide quarantine. I turned my energies to learning how to make masks for whoever needed them. Homeless or not, there’s no room for discrimination in my life. If you needed help, I would do my best to meet their needs. When quarantine began here in Texas, everything was shut down and I had to stop donating plasma due to the possibility of exposure. This meant there were no more funds to help me with expenses for buying necessities for the homeless community.

Yellow mask with flowers and bumblebees
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

There had been lots of heaviness on my heart for the past few years but more within this time frame. With everything that is going on and having so much negativity increasing, I wanted to turn this into something positive. So I decided to extend an invite to all of my friends on all of my media platforms to join me and help me create less hate and more love in the world. I worked with many high school students throughout the years from all over the states and I’ve always told them to be the change they want to see in the world.

woman making gift bags
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

I’m doing my best to be a reflection of that, but I know with the help of my friends and family, we could rock this world to its core through kindness. I was uncertain of where to begin, but I was determined, motivated, and ready for the long run. I knew everyone has good and love in their hearts, but needed someone to take the first step. So I invited everyone to help and join me to come together and make a change, ‘Making a Difference Through Kindness’ was born.

making a difference through kindness
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

When I sent out my initial announcement about Making a Difference Through Kindness to my friends and family, I was showered with so much support and love, that it moved me to tears. Everyone supported me 100% and then some. They were there when I was stuck on what the next step would be, they came swooping in to save the day when there was an issue, and were forever giving of their time.

woman sewing masks
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

We had a fundraiser on Facebook and we raised over $400! With all of that, I was able to get basic necessities and other hygiene items for our project. I also was looking for other ways to help with building this idea and came across a non-profit organization called Random Acts. They had this section called, ‘Perform an Act of Kindness.’ I read up on it and filled out an Act Proposal Form. We waited for 5 weeks to see if we were approved. I would keep everyone informed of what was going on, the process, and any new developments. The day arrived and we were approved for the funds for our project! We proceeded with making a budget and took plenty of pictures for documentation purposes. With the funds, we were able to make 80 hygienic bags, they each had shampoo, bar soap, washcloth, toothbrush/toothpaste combo, sanitizer, water, two-pack of crackers, two face masks, band-aides, Q-Tips, and feminine products.

soap, sanitary products, toiletries in shopping cart
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

I’m going to get off-topic for a quick second and say when I was researching more about Random Acts, I learned there were some pretty amazing individuals associated with it. I’m a fan of the show, ‘Supernatural,’ and learned the Co-Founder and Board President is Misha Collins one of the cast members from the show, but also Danneel Ackels (Board Member), Genevieve Padalecki (Board Member), and Rachel Miner (Executive Director). All of these amazing people are who I strive to be. Their actions speak volumes and have hearts of gold. Hopefully, someday, I’ll have the privilege of meeting them in person.

bins in a car
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

My life has been a journey, leading up to this point. Many people would look back on my life and say, ‘I’m glad I didn’t go through that’ or ‘Would you change anything if you could?’ Honestly, I’m grateful for the life I had growing up, it made me who I am today. I would definitely go through it again if the outcome would be the same. I’m a strong, loving, compassionate, understanding, and vibrant individual. All of the amazing people who crossed my path and showed my family kindness, I thank you. I have taken your kindness, it is embedded in me, and I will forever carry it in my heart.

I’m ending this by saying to do your best to make every situation a learning experience, even the bad ones. Remember, there are always good people in the world, but sometimes you have to be the one to take the first step to find them. And finally, keep being awesome, keep being amazing, and keep making a difference through kindness, my friends.â€

mom with her children
Courtesy of Danielle Martinez

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Danielle Martinez from Austin, TX.

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