Mary Clever da Silva and her husband Lou

Mary Clever da Silva has been donating complete Thanksgiving meals to Kinship Center families every year for the past 17 years. When she came to Kinship Center this year, we asked her to share her story. Read Mary's inspiring, heartwarming story below.

How have the experiences of your past led you to where you are today? What about your past inspired you to provide meals to Kinship Center families every year?
As a child I lived in an orphanage and then with many group homes and foster families. It was all about money back then and I was molested and constantly abused. There were no programs like the Kinship Center and Families Ties. There was no support and no one to check and see what was going on. In many of the homes the kids were kept in one room...slept on the floor and only allowed out to go to the bathroom. I learned how I did not want to treat children and I believe that was what led me to spend 30 years working with children as the director of Wee Care Day Care. I wanted to help show them love. Had I not gone through what I went through, I very well might not have known how to help some of the children in my day care. It's like we are all a part of a giant puzzle and because our piece is so tiny, we can't see how it all fits together.

When I found out about Kinship Center and Family Ties I was flooded with memories of the orphanage and foster care and what it is like not to have food on the table for Thanksgiving and as a single mom, working 3 minimum wage jobs, running to each of them because I couldn't afford to repair my old car and ate dog food so my sons could have healthy meals. So, I called them and asked if there were any families who might fall between the cracks and not have a Thanksgiving dinner. That first year I was told there were 3 families in need and I told them to let them know they would have a complete Thanksgiving dinner. I felt so blessed that I was able to help. I save money from garage sales and the refunds I get for recyclables all year long to help with this project, each year the number of families has grown and it has become too much for me on my limited income and medical challenges, so now I ask for help from my generous friends and neighbors.

What makes Kinship Center special to you?
Kinship Center and Family Ties is special to me because of all they do...all the support they give the foster families and children. Kinship Center is a non-profit agency that creates and supports permanent families for children through adoption, relative caregiving or other guardianship. Since 1984, according to their website, they have helped build families for thousands of children who can no longer remain with their birth parents.

If you could tell anything to the families who are recipients of the meals you provide, what would you say?
I have been where you are. I know the hurt and frustration when you are unable to feed your family and I am so grateful that I am now able to help. Hopefully, that day will come for you when you are able to pass it forward and help a family to put food on their table.

If you could tell anything to people who may not be aware of the difficult situations in which some families in our community find themselves , what would you want them to know?
Because someone is unable to feed their family does not mean they are lazy or don’t really care. Stuff happens and you don’t know from day to day if your life is going to put you in a situation where you are going to need help just to eat or feed your family. I see these folks as love and support to children who have no one else and not letting the fact that they need help stop them.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
A few years ago, a little boy ran up to me as I was delivering the food, asking "Are you the lady? Are you the one giving us food?" When I nodded yes, he threw his arms around me and said "This is the most food my Grandmama has ever had at one time!" I left, promising myself I would continue doing this as long as I possibly could. If you are able to help them, then you are truly blessed.

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