Marty Valdez was 17 and picking crops in Olathe. She never thought she would get an education and be able to make something of herself, until MADA, the Mexican American Development Association, stepped in.

MADA was able to obtain a grant to send Valdez to nursing school. She received her degree and spent 35 years working in the nursing field. Now that she has retired, she has come back home to MADA, to give back to the agency that gave her a start in life.

September was Hispanic Heritage Month and Valdez sees MADA as a quiet hero to the homeless, lonely and destitute, whether they are Hispanic or not.

The camaraderie was palpable Friday afternoon among those hanging out on the patio at MADA. Some of those assembled have been stopping at MADA for more than 10 years, some just a few months, but they are all family to each other. They stop in to share a smoke, visit, talk and just spend time with others who understand them. It’s a daily routine to stop in and see how others are doing, over a cup of coffee.

MADA is a 501(c)3 that was started in 1972 by a Catholic priest, Father Walter Smigiel. It was a grassroots organization in the beginning, but has grown into its own building, and just needs some assistance now with donations and volunteers.

At MADA, another charity once served two hot meals a day at no charge; the charity has since moved on to serve lunch at the Methodist church, used to serve two hot meals a day, at no charge, to anyone who wanted one. Due to funding that program has been lost, and for the homeless, that is a huge hit. Although the hot meals are no longer there, people can still get coffee, a shower, or help getting paperwork filled out. MADA also has lockers for those who need a safe place to put their valuables and they have a clothes “closet” that is free to anyone who needs some clothing.

They have men, women, and kids clothing and some household items as well. There is a table with donated food, mainly fruit and vegetables that are in season, that anyone is welcome to stop in and take. There is a well stocked lending library, and a phone for those who need it.

Reggie, a visitor to the center, said “we lift each other up, there is no need to bring each other down. You make best friends here, because there is no judgment here.”

Beth Reideler is the director of MADA and said, “There is a lot of love and joy in this building.”

She has been with MADA for more than 30 years. “They have been good years. I am fortunate to have met all of these people,” she said Friday.

But unless donations and awareness increase, MADA is going to struggle.

“We need an agency or group to step in and take over our kitchen, we are certified, we just need someone who can run it, and get our hot meals back,” Reideler said.

One man, who wished to remain nameless said “this place needs to stay open because some of us have nothing. Not everybody speaks the same language, but we speak the same love.”

Leslie Brown is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

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