Mission of Love Opens the Way Through Service
Every successful organization has a driving force behind it. At Mission of Love Charities located in Capitol Heights, Maryland, just minutes from the nation’s center of political power, that catalyst is Deborah “Deb” Martinez. Yet, this seasoned community advocate known by a who’s who of Washington leaders quickly credits her parents when asked about the source of her positivity and energy. She adds that they instilled in her pride in her identity, a fearlessness in life, and the constant determination to make every moment count.
“Each of us has something good to contribute, and I believe that when we find that purpose in our lives, we have the duty and the joy to share it with the people we can help through our actions, our words, and our support,” says Martinez. “In my case, my mother worked hard and sacrificed for her children so that we could go to college. She held several government jobs so we could attend Howard University tuition-free. She told us if you want to go somewhere else, you pay for it, but I am who I am today, in part, because I attended Howard and appreciate what my mother did for us.”
That upbringing has shaped Martinez’s vision for the work she does leading Mission of Love Charities. The organization offers various services and delivers vital everyday social assistance to the community throughout the immediate region. From rent and utility assistance to job training and workforce development, Martinez says the role of the Mission of Love Charities is to help people in practical ways that recognize the challenges they are facing.
“During the pandemic, our students cannot always access the internet, which impacts them disproportionately,” says Martinez. “So, if helping a family with their internet service is needed, we try to be there to ensure that the children can stay connected to their educational lifeline. It is that real and immediate. Or, if I meet a young person who needs a job sooner rather than later, I encourage them to consider a trade or a program like Certified Nursing Assistant because CNAs are in high demand due to COVID. We don’t believe every person has to incur massive college debt to become employable in a good-paying job and be successful. However, I also encourage people to stay curious, learn everything they can every day, and read a book as often as possible. Whether it is the Bible or some other book that interests you like Before the Mayflower, the point is to stay open to improving yourself as a person.”
That can-do spirit of looking for genuine, practical, and immediate solutions is what Martinez teaches her staff. The Mission of Love Charities team meets weekly, and Martinez says people make the gatherings uplifting and more successful because of the respect and interpersonal relations. “This is not home; we are a place of business, and it is important to keep our work separate from our personal lives. Still, our goal is to make each other feel appreciated, listened to, and that we are all working towards making our jobs better and more effective for the people who rely on us.”
Mission of Love Charities stays in constant communication with state, county, and local leaders who seek Martinez’s and her team’s input on local issues impacting the increasingly diverse community. Whether working-class Latino, Black, Caucasian, or more recently, Afghani and Central American immigrants in need, the problems they need help with require that the agency partner with many different individuals and organizations. The starting point may be learning English, but their needs grow exponentially, and no one organization has all the solutions.
“Without partnering, the civil rights movement would not have happened,” reminds Martinez. “We would not be here as an organization without partnering, and after the last four years, we are better today because we are partnering now, so I think that looking back and blaming the past administration and grieving all that is a waste of time. We are blessed to be here now and need to focus on where to go from here. This fact becomes abundantly clear when you travel to see what conditions are like in other countries. Also, when people complain to me about their situation, I tell them change starts with education, and if we do not do that for ourselves, we have no one else to blame. Also, we need to become informed and stay engaged in our civic duty to vote in the mid-terms, which are just as important as elections during presidential election years. So too, in working with our school systems, even if we don’t like everything they are doing, we must stay involved in what is happening to our children in the public schools.”
Martinez says Mission of Love Charities will soon be relocating into a newer facility. Seven will be dedicated to education training, the lifeline for participants seeking to make a significant change in their lives. She adds that among her education goals is to continue mentoring women to strive for leadership roles and says the non-profit sector has served to open many doors for women to succeed. “This is an exciting time in my life because I am ready and eager to pass on the knowledge and what I have learned over the years to the next generation woman who wants to lead a community-based organization. The notion of giving back to our community is something that my mother instilled in me, and when I am ready to step away, what will give me the peace of mind needed will be knowing that I did it the right way, preparing a successor who can step in,” she said.
Numerous awards affirm that Mission of Love Charities is getting the job done and doing it right. The organization has been recognized as one of the Essence Essential Heroes. Also, the agency was selected among the nation’s Top 100 by Charity Navigator. Plus, its work was profiled by the ABC7 Helping Hands series and received the Community Crisis Service’s Hero Award. Even CNN featured Missions of Love Charities during nationwide coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact. Martinez concludes by saying that she owes her success and Mission of Love Charities to her board of directors and its chairperson. They support and endorse the daily decisions she has to make in running the organization. “They agree with me nine times out of ten and work hard to help find the money for us to carry out our programs. This is all I could ask for, and without them, we would not be where we are today. I accept this recognition from SER National on behalf of all the men and women who work tirelessly every day to keep doing the
work of Mission of Love Charities. As the name says, what we do for others is not for gain for ourselves but an expression of our love for others,” she adds.