Martha Aguilera was overwhelmed by the number of problems Santa Clarita has faced.
A resident of 17 years, the local business owner of Kokolita’s cake shop and mother of three has seen the city go through epidemics with drugs, homelessness and sex trafficking, and she was tired of hearing about the cycle of problems.
Though she was frustrated, she didn’t know what she could do to fix any of it.
“You always feel like there is nothing you can do,” Martha Aguilera said. “Why know about it because it just hurts your feelings and makes you feel bad?”
Sitting in church one Sunday, Aguilera said her pastor was giving a sermon on the concept of doing “for one person what you wish you could do for everyone.”
This struck a chord with Aguilera.
While she could not solve every problem, she could try to help one person with their problem.
“I can help one organization, I can volunteer one day, I can give one dollar,” she said. “The people that are affected by your one (act) will do for one (someone or something else) also.”
With years of conceptualizing and planning, Aguilera decided to start her own organization, “Do For One,” a program-based effort to help those in need, one person and one issue at a time.
The organization is not faith-based, Aguilera said, because otherwise she could not work alongside public schools.
In light of the heroin epidemic in Santa Clarita, Aguilera’s first project will be to help with drug prevention for children.
“We saw it on Facebook and a couple of places would mention it and then it would go away,” she said. “I got pissed. We need to do something.”
Drawing from her personal life, Aguilera has been clean from drugs for 15 years herself. She said she wants to use her experience to be able to relate to others currently facing the same situation.
“I have to do something about it,” Aguilera said. “There’s got to be a reason for (my experience).”
It breaks her heart to see overdoses and people already addicted to drugs, so she wants to target 5th through 9th grade students before they get the chance to start.
By collaborating with parents, teachers, child psychologists and law enforcement, Aguilera plans to appeal to youths’ specific personality types to find which area in their lives would make them most susceptible to trying drugs.
“What scares one kid can entice another kid,” Aguilera said.
According to Aguilera, there are three ways to appeal to youth: fear, vanity and guilt.
“They work,” she said. “I’m not above using guilt to keep my kid off drugs.”
This can vary from showing kids what their teeth would look like if they did drugs for an extended period of time to inviting a parent who lost their child to an overdose to share their story, she said.
“That way you’re not worried, to the best of your ability, that you’re not getting the kids excited about something that is not good for them and on the flip side, not ignoring it and hoping that they just don’t find out on their own,” she said.
Aguilera is in the process of getting the organization’s tax-exempt status and is working to prepare the website and social media accounts.
On Twitter as @ginaender