Claudia Botero of Univision profiles Maria. Watch the video here!
When Maria immigrated to the US from Honduras in 1979, she knew life here wouldn’t be easy. Maria has lived in South LA for 36 years and has worked at numerous jobs over the years: building airplane parts at a factory in South LA, cleaning planes at the Los Angeles International Airport, providing childcare services, and assisting teachers in a classroom. She focused on her job and her family, but it wasn’t until she became a SCOPE member in 1996 that Maria began to expand her skills to community organizing work. She’s had the opportunity to talk to residents across South LA and to educate her neighbors about upcoming elections, the importance of voting, and local policy issues. Starting as a volunteer, Maria eventually became a member of SCOPE’s outreach team and a leader among the organization’s membership.
Drawing on her community organizing and leadership experience, Maria now works with local small businesses that might be eligible for free energy upgrades through the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Maria and her outreach team members have outreached to more than 3,000 small businesses, churches, and faith-based institutions throughout South LA. Familiar with policies that have made this opportunity possible for many small businesses and organizations, Maria is charged with identifying lights, toilets and faucets that are eligible for energy and water efficiency upgrades. She uses her language skills to reach mono-lingual Spanish speakers so they can also access the free upgrades that are available.
On a recent visit to a local church, she and her coworker went to check on an application they helped file in February. She wanted to check that the church had received the services available to them. The church was able to get all of their lights, an exit sign, and toilets upgraded for free through the program. When she entered the church, the staff remembered her and were ecstatic that she came back to visit. They thanked her profusely. “They said they would pray for me and my family. I felt really good about the work I am doing to educate people about conservation” said Maria.
For more than 20 years, SCOPE has been advocating for policies that create career path job opportunities for South LA residents. Our current campaign is focused on ensuring that Cap-and-Trade funds are invested in South LA to improve environmental and community health. This includes reducing toxins, creating job opportunities and career pipelines in the climate industry, developing energy efficient affordable housing for low-income residents, and establishing better land use policies.
With our recent partnership with LADWP, SCOPE launched a community billboard campaign to build climate consciousness in South LA and to share how people could conserve energy and water in their community by signing up for free services offered by the utility. Maria, along with a few of her colleagues, is featured on these billboards.
One of the billboards happened to be located across the street from her grandson’s school. Maria cried as she described how happy she was to hear her grandson’s excitement about seeing her on the billboard. He was proud of her work, and proud that she was working to better the community. Maria says, “This is the message I want to give my grandkids. Their grandma is always fighting for justice, and working to make the world a better place.” She laughed as she also exclaimed, “I told them: I’m watching you guys!”
The outreach work that Maria and the rest of the team do is necessary to ensure that there is the education and demand within low-income and immigrant communities-and particularly among the small businesses within this community-to make energy efficiency a priority. Neighborhoods like South LA are the forefront of pollution and toxic dumping, but the last in line in getting help to clean up or finding solutions to these chronic issues. By engaging the South LA community in discussion on what it would mean to have access to healthy food, green sector jobs, and less pollution, Maria’s work helps us find community oriented solutions to these problems.