MoneyBug Promises to Help Build Community with $1,000 Giveaway
Toniann Serrago Martinez gifted $1,000 check to ease bills and have worry-free holiday
Toniann Serrago Martinez, 33, has a lot to worry about. With bills, a disconnection notice from the electric company, nowhere to sleep, and the stresses of being a full-time single mother as well as a part-time babysitter, Martinez was worried she would not have a Christmas for her two kids.
“I try my best to provide for my children, but I'm alone here in Texas and don't make enough money,” Martinez said. “Being a full-time mother made money was tight this holiday. Of course, I wanted to give them a Christmas they deserve.”
But a deserving, delightful Christmas gift isn’t always something that goes under the tree. For Martinez, it was to buy a bed to give her children and herself somewhere to sleep. After fleeing a toxic relationship, Martinez, and her children were left with nothing. Separated from her family back in New York, she managed to scrimp and save every bit of her earnings as a babysitter to put away a little money. Martinez and her two children, Mialeena, 8, and Vincent Valentine, 10, found themselves across the country in Houston, Texas, in a small one-bedroom apartment with only one bed between them. “The three of us share a small bed,” she said. “My kids and I barely sleep.”
But Martinez is one tough cookie who hasn’t crumbled yet. While things like toys and games are material goods, teaching resilience, tenacity, and independence by example is by far a more important parental aspect, and Martinez prides herself having raised good, smart, talented children. “I think I do my best and am a great Mother,” Martinez said. “I don’t take time away from them to be selfish. I love them to pieces, and I give them all I can.”
Even if that means that Martinez only has little-to-no food for herself, she makes sure Mialeena and Vincent Valentine’s plates are full. “I try my best to make them happy,” she said. “It's hard being low income, and I try and be there as much as possible and more. I'm the best I can be to them.”
Martinez, who purely wants to see her kids smile; to dance with them, and for them to relax and be comfortable with her, has seen her children live a hard life reminiscent of her own, and it troubles her. “It makes me sad,” she admits. “I feel that my kids are sad we don’t have a lot. It makes me cry, and I feel that we suffer.”
Ethics and generosity are disappearing, and selfishness has taken over. Where there's truth, there are lies. Where there was once humility and honor, we are being captivated by smart technology 24/7. Real life lessons are hard to come by these days, but Martinez takes the time to teach her children invaluable and all-important life lessons. “Don't give up your dreams, whether big or small. Go get them, and I’ll be there as much as I can to help you reach them,” she tells them.
Along with imparting the wisdom of honesty, sincerity, and treating others how you wish to be treated, Martinez, as only a mother could do, inspires her children to keep their chins up; to hold their heads high and enjoy life. “Don't let the actions of others interfere with your good intentions and heart,” she repeats. “My kids must keep their sweetness and lovableness because we need that in this cold world.”
There are many reasons some may be in financial need this time of year, and by awarding five such families or individuals with a prize of $1,000, MoneyBug aimed to help those who need it most have the happy, stress-free holiday they deserve. So, in the spirit of the holidays, MoneyBug hoped to alleviate the financial stress for families, just like Martinez, who are experiencing hardship. Martinez was personally chosen by a panel of judges, cut a check by MoneyBug, and sent $1,000 which she tearfully accepted.
Martinez was also recently contacted by an aunt who informed her that her Mother has breast cancer, and her father is having trouble making ends meet. When asked how she planned to spend her prize money, she enthusiastically said, “I would love to visit my mother and help my family,” Martinez hopes she can reunite with her family, give Christmas to her children, and finally, get some much-needed sleep on a futon of her own.
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