For years, Martha Cota has supported Long Beach families through her nonprofit Latinos in Action. Now, Cota’s network has stepped up to help her own family after her husband was hospitalized with COVID-19 recently.
The husband’s condition has worsened after he recovered just enough to have a ventilator removed only days ago, according to friends. As the sole breadwinner and without health insurance, this means uncertainty with bills, food and rent for the family. Cota, herself, has had to scale back work because of the pandemic.
Understanding the gravity of the situation, Silissa Uriarte Smith, who is part of Martha’s network of civically engaged mujeres, sprung into action and created a GoFundMe account on Monday.
Uriarte Smith described Cota as a hero with a selfless and generous heart—and humble enough not to ask for help directly.
“I did it because of who she is, and really she is the best of our community,” Uriarte Smith said. “And we need to be there to support the best of our community in times of crisis.”
Uriarte Smith said she first met Cota in 2007 when she was the executive director of the YWCA of Harbor Area and South Bay and Martha was the Spanish language parent educator leading classes for families referred to them by the county’s Children and Family Services department.
Those classes often became the most popular and parents would end up joining Cota’s nonprofit Latinos in Action.
“She has that natural relationship ability to make parents feel like they are worth something, despite the troubles they were going through with the DCSF process,” Uriarte Smith said.
Long Beach Unified School District board member Juan Benitez, who has known Cota for 13 years, said the outpouring of support for Cota’s family speaks for her “lifelong commitment and devotion to helping the community.”
In 2017, Martha was named Woman of the Year by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell for encouraging parents to engage in civic participation and leadership development.
— Patrick O'Donnell (@AsmPatODonnell) March 6, 2017
She has fought for fair wages, healthier environments, tenant rights and other social justice issues over the years.
Martha Cota from Latinos in Action discussing her husbands experience working in the sanitation industry. "He wasn't given any training, equipment, or safety gear to do his job" #greenjobs #zerowaste pic.twitter.com/gLyUm2tN45
— Food Finders🍎 (@FoodFindersLBC) April 26, 2018
— BHC Long Beach (@BHCLongBeach) November 17, 2015
"There's an impact on our environment, our health. All of my children have asthma, & a few years back I was told I have cancer. My doctor was shocked & asked me what I do for work, since there was so many toxins in my system." Martha Cota, Latinos en Accion#zerowaste #greenjobs pic.twitter.com/QSRjfZB9qV
— Don't Waste LB (@DontWasteLB) April 26, 2018
Martha Cota from Latinos in Action California supporting renters in Long Beach. pic.twitter.com/FMS3lHetQ1
— Housing Long Beach (@HousingLB) April 3, 2019
From Martha Cota of @latinosinacti0n
"Over 90% of port drivers are Latino immigrants, serving as essential workers in our communities. We demand trucking companies including @Drive4Universal & @XPOLogistics provide protective gear and paid sick leave." #ProtectPortDrivers pic.twitter.com/Z6Xax3MnmD
— Justice4PortDrivers! (@PortDriverUnion) August 12, 2020
So far, over $4,000 has been raised since the fundraiser was launched Nov. 30.
Uriarte Smith hopes to raise at least $10,000 in order to give the family two to three months worth of financial support.
“I want people to help her,” Uriarte Smith said. “She’s a hero in our community and she deserves our support.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a quote from LBUSD board member Juan Benitez.
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