This month we’re celebrating Social Work Appreciation Month! Social workers are an integral part of our operation at Food for Others. They make referrals for emergency food that clients can pick up at mobile sites or our warehouse. They also help coordinate our Power Pack Program at their respective schools.
To get to know our social workers better, we met with Fairfax Villa Elementary School’s Social Worker, Maria Marris. Maria first became involved with Food for Others in the Spring of 2020 through our CARES Mobile Sites program. Thanks to Fairfax County emergency COVID-19 funding, we were able to establish nine pop-up pantries in areas of high need.
When Maria was growing up, she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. Even her middle name, Socorro, meaning help in Spanish, foreshadowed her future career as a Social Worker.
Maria supports the Waples Mobile Home Park mobile site. She works as the onsite leader and the referral agent for families receiving boxes of emergency food at the site. Maria received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Denver. She’s been working as a Social Worker for the past 25 years. She spent her first 15 years at Centreville High School. In 2017, she began working at Fairfax Villa Elementary School.
As a Fairfax Villa Social Worker, Maria conducts screenings for special education, focus groups, and parent outreach. Each year, she coordinates a new specialized focus group. She “loves seeing the kids do well and turn things around.” This year she, along with her fellow counselors, is running a group called the Copying Cats. The Copying Cats group helps a small group of students manage their anxiety. Maria finds “the groups very enjoyable because [she] can see the progress [her students] made over time.”
For Food for Others, Maria goes into the Waples Mobile Home community to distribute emergency food boxes. She reflected that “every month the families are so appreciative” and that “they really say without that help they would be struggling.” She also conducts neighborhood outreach there with the help of other organizations. For example, the Fairfax Villa PTA donates winter coats and clothes.
When asked about her favorite part of her job, she shared “the joy [from seeing] the children every day. It’s nice to know that I’m able to be a support to both the children and the parents.” Maria wants more people to know the value of social work.
“We do so much, everything we do is about caring for people.”