CINCINNATI — A local nonprofit hopes for donations during annual “Giving Tuesday​,” so it can help people like Mayra Velazquez, who came to Cincinnati with her family for a better life when she was 16 years old. 

What You Need To Know

  • Local nonprofit hopes for donations during annual “Giving Tuesday”

  • Pandemic has created innovative ways to serve local families for Westside nonprofit

  • COVID-19 has brought an uptick in donations for Santa Maria Community Services, Inc., CEO says

When she was 7 years old, her father left Mexico and set his sights on America for new opportunities. Nine years later, he was ready for his two daughters and wife to join him in Cincinnati.

A Westside-based nonprofit is helping Velazquez, the now 29-year-old married mother of two, achieve the American dream her father envisioned when he first traveled to the Queen City nearly a decade ago. 

Santa Maria Community Services, Inc., has helped her build a better life for her family through its multitude of services, including helping her with the birth of her children, as well as helping them succeed in school, among other assistance.

Now, especially during the pandemic, Santa Maria Community Services has been a Godsend to her and her family, since she lost her job in the food industry. In fact, the nonprofit has helped her pay her bills amid COVID-19, Velazquez said.

Her family is just one of the many Westside families Santa Maria Community Services help each year.

With the global movement known as “Giving Tuesday” on the horizon, the nonprofit’s president and CEO, H.A. Musser Jr., is hoping for the generosity of strangers and friends alike over the next week.

While Giving Tuesday, dubbed as a “Global Generosity Movement," is officially Dec. 1 for nonprofits across the globe, Santa Maria Community Services is using a full week to draw attention to their services and asking for donations.

Each day, during their weeklong campaign, Santa Maria Community Services will post a new video from their nonprofit showcasing individuals and families who are helped and their experiences — in an attempt to paint a clear picture of how your donation could help facilitate that ongoing assistance.

Santa Maria Community Services’ Giving Tuesday goal is $3,000, Musser said.

Founded in 1897 by the Sisters of Charity, Santa Maria Community Services is based in Price Hill and helps more than 3,000 people throughout the community with educational, financial and health tools and resources.

But since COVID-19, they have doubled the number of people they serve, Musser said.

"I would say, this year, it's going to be closer to 8,000 to 10,000 people that we touch,” he said. “We won't be working with them long-term like we do with those other 3,000, where we're engaged with the family for months or years, and really helping them move on a path out of poverty — but because of this urgent need, we decided it's important to fill this gap, too."

And the pandemic has forced the nonprofit to create innovative ways to serve their local families, he said.

"We haven't done much in the way of emergency food and other kinds of emergency help in the past few years. But when that became necessary, our staff took on that challenge,” Musser said.

Teaming up with Cincinnati’s Freestore Foodbank, Santa Maria Community Services distributed more than 50,000 pounds of food to their community, as well as hundreds of “care bundles” which included cleaning and paper supplies, Musser continued.

Alongside another nonprofit, La Soupe, they passed out more than 1,500 gallons of soup, thousands of masks, hand sanitizer and 30,000 diapers.

Further, he said, they paired with the health department to coordinate COVID-19 testing for those in their community.

While some nonprofits may be struggling during the pandemic, Santa Maria Community Services, has seen an uptick in donations during COVID-19, Musser revealed.

“Our contributions are way up, actually, because people see the need and they have they know that we're on the ground doing this work,” he said. “We've been able to multiply the amount of rent assistance and utility assistance that we could provide using some of the some of the government funds in addition to the local giving through the United Way. They've been a very strong partner and giving us significant grants to be able to distribute to families along with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.”

In fact, recently, Santa Maria Community Services received a $40,000 donation from Nehemiah Manufacturing to fund its Youth Development Program, which teaches Lower Price Hill children how to develop peaceful conflict resolution, peer resistance, youth safety, bullying prevention, self-management and goal-directed behavior skills.

“We are so grateful for the generous support of Nehemiah Manufacturing,” Musser said. “This generous gift will have a direct impact on Lower Price Hill youth and will help us provide them with the support and hope they need to be successful.”

For more information about donating during Santa Maria Community Services' weeklong campaign, or to watch their videos, visit their Giving Tuesday website at: