Life changed overnight for one Texas mom when people on the internet learned she was sleeping in her car with her four kids after being evicted. After a fundraising drive surpassed its goal by tens of thousands of dollars, the mother communicated her shock and gratitude to the local news media, saying she felt “very blessed.”
Kenia Madrigal, 29, and her four children—Michael, 11; Benjamin, 8; Sarah, 3; and Sophia, 1—had been sleeping in their SUV since the hardworking mom lost her job in June 2020. She fell into rent arrears, and the family was forced to vacate their mobile home in Harris County.
“I take the car seats out,” Madrigal explained to KTRK. “I put the seats down, and these go all the way back. So, me and my oldest [sleep] here,” she said, gesturing to the front of the SUV, “while the youngest are in the back.
“It’s hard because my daughter keeps asking me when are we going to go home,” she added, “and we don’t have a home … It’s so hard to hold it together.”
The mom was denied state assistance. She eventually found another job paying $11.50 an hour but could not afford an apartment.
Madrigal’s plight pulled at the nation’s heartstrings, and one person took it upon themselves to take direct action. A co-worker at the mom of four’s new job, Chelsea Monroe, set up a GoFundMe account, hoping to raise $800 to help Madrigal and her family out of their financial rut.
“Kenia is a hardworking, optimistic, brave mother of 4,” Monroe wrote. “In the beginning of the COVID lockdown, she was laid off … during this time, her children’s father became more and more distant.
“These funds will go towards a safe home for Kenia and her children,” Monroe continued. “They will also fund her children’s education for this new virtual school year.”
The funding drive took off, raising over $60,000 in just 24 hours, a life-changing sum of money for the young struggling family. To date, over 2,000 people have donated.
“I’m still in shock. I still don’t believe it,” Madrigal told KTRK in an update on the family’s story on Aug. 20. “I can’t believe there’s that many people willing to help me, of all people. I don’t believe I’m somebody for them to want to help.
“My goal was to get enough to get into a place,” she added, “and now I can actually give [my children] a home.”
It wasn’t just monetary donations that came in for Madrigal and her four children.
Executive director of the nonprofit Kids’ Meals Inc., Beth Braniff Harp reached out to offer food supplies. “During this pandemic, we don’t want anyone going hungry,” she said. Northwest Assistance Ministries (NAM) also came forward, wanting to connect Madrigal, and others like her, to invaluable resources.
NAM’s chief advancement officer, Brian Carr, shared, “We want to make sure that families … get the help they need as soon as possible. We don’t want them living in their cars.”
The Christian church-run international aid organization the Salvation Army also stressed that their nationwide pandemic relief effort comprising shelter, food boxes, and spiritual support is accessible to all vulnerable persons during this time.
Madrigal, still in shock, is overwhelmingly grateful for the outpouring of support that has changed her family’s future for the better. “I’m so grateful,” she exclaimed. “I’m very blessed.”
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