A new nonprofit, Monrovia Happenings, founded by Carmen Martinez wants to connect Monrovians to one another this season and has been collecting donations for three families in need.
The name of the organization is derived from a Facebook page that Martinez is the administrator of. Martinez reached out to other Monrovians using the page for donations. She describes three families with different hardships on a post and gives suggestions for donations.
After learning about one family’s difficulties through a Facebook post, Martinez was also informed by co-founder of Foothills Kitchen, Janie Duncan, of a second family in need. A third family she learned about through her work in real estate.
“We have a family that has been homeless, living in a car. We have a family that has gotten help from Foothill Unity, but they’re still struggling. And we have a middle-class family that normally has had a decent life, but right now it’s a challenging time. What better way to do this than to help three families that have so many different needs?”
After putting up the post asking for donations, she has gotten mostly a positive response. Already, people have donated gift cards and cash. One person donated tickets to Disneyland.
Martinez has also received negative messages accusing her of being a scammer. Martinez said she hopes she has a good enough reputation around town that people would trust her. She doesn’t let the negative comments deter her, and instead trusts her gut. “I’ve gotten push-back [in the past], but in the end, it all turns out to be the right thing,” Martinez said.
While the page has been around for four years, this is the first year Martinez has run this drive for donations. However, she is no stranger to giving back to her community. Last year, Martinez helped organize vigils for Kelsey Cami and Cecilia Meza, a mother and daughter from Monrovia who were murdered.
When Mayflower Elementary won a $20,000 grant for a new playground through a Facebook contest, Martinez started to understand the reach of the social media platform. “It made me realize the power of Facebook,” Martinez said.
“This is Carmen’s way of stepping up and giving back,” Duncan said.
Monrovia Happenings is a place where Monrovians share information and interact with each other. The Monrovia Happenings group itself is not necessarily unique. Monrovia has several other similar Facebook groups, even a few trying to mimic the name of Martinez’s page. Martinez said that she created the Monrovia Happenings group in order to combat what she thought were becoming toxic communities full of gossip and arguments. Duncan describes Martinez as “a controversial figure,” as a result of her creating a separate community.
Martinez came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 12 years old. Her family lived in Pasadena for six months before moving to Monrovia, where Martinez stayed. Martinez has admitted leaving Monrovia three times but ultimately always coming back. “I don’t think I’m leaving again,” Martinez said. She said her work in real estate allowed her to become close to the Monrovia community and connect with people.
“There is a saying in Spanish, ‘Do good without paying attention to whom, whether it’s friend or foe,’” Martinez said. “This is the time to really give from the heart.”