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'Mother Teresa of Redondo' cares for the sick

Jefferson Award winner Alma Martinez
November 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Each month, the Jefferson Awards honor those extraordinary people in our community who tirelessly donate their time to help others. This month's winner is a woman named Alma Martinez who spends so much time helping others, she barely gets any sleeps.Alma Martinez puts the "giving" in Thanksgiving. She's preparing the fixings for her second family, an organization called Amigos Sin Barreras, or Friends Without Barriers.

"They care for me more than I care for them. I mean they give me life, they give me a reason for living," says Martinez.

Almost everyone she cares for is living with AIDS, Martinez created this group after her own son began successfully battling the disease nearly 20 years ago.

"My son was in critical condition and dying, and he needed holistic treatment and he could afford it, and I wanted to do this, the same thing he was getting, except for poor people who could never afford it," says Martinez.

Martinez says the key to her entire program is the human touch. And it starts with everyone who walks in, gets a hug.

And not only are free hugs given out, massages and accupressure is also offered.

"It exists to help persons who have been on medications for so many years, that the toxins in those medications are affecting their bodies," says Martinez.

Chris Avalos has been getting massages ever since he met Martinez 16 years ago. Then, he was a drug addict in denial about his AIDS. Now, he's one of Martinez's closest friends.

"I call her 'mom.' She's my mom. She has put love in my life," says Avalos.

Giving love is a 24/7 job for Martinez. Most of the day, the 72-year-old cares for a sister who is battling advanced Alzheimer's disease. Late at night she writes grants to cover the $150,000 cost of her program.

"I only sleep three, four hours at the most at night, but I don't need more sleep, I'm an old bird, so who needs more sleep?" says Martinez.

We can all learn something from the woman known as the "Mother Teresa of Redondo Beach."

"From my story people can learn there's always a way of giving," says Martinez.

Alma Martinez is our Jefferson Award winner for the month of October.


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