Maria King: Veterans Home activity coordinator
Maria was born in Baja California and is one of 12 children. She came to the United States in 1972 and at the age of 11, went to Pinewood Elementary School for six months, then moved to South Gate, California where she finished 6th grade in Victoria Elementary, then went to So. Gate Junior High school where she finished 9th grade and finally went to So. Gate High School. Unfortunately, she did not graduate.
Maria got married very young, had two beautiful daughters, Judy and Margaret, and devoted herself to them. She went to work when her daughters were able to take care of each other and her mother was always there to help.
In 1989, I went to work for TRW Technar Automotive through an agency. After three months, she was permanent and worked there for seven years. The company decided to move out of California. She ended up unemployed so she decided to go back to work and get her GED.
In 1997, a lady she worked with at Apple Valley Care Center mentioned to her that there was a Veterans Home in Barstow and she should come and check it out. In May of 1997, she was hired by Pedus Food Service. She was a contractor at the time as a nourishment person, meaning she was in charge of making sure the residents got their extra snack for all the ones that needed special needs as far as nutrition. She was also a dishwasher, dietary aid, cafeteria server, sandwich maker and cook’s helper.
In 2000, while she was working in the kitchen, an opening came out for housekeepers, which she and other kitchen workers applied for. Three of us were lucky enough to get the job. In 2006 she decided go back to school and become an activity coordinator. It was the best decision she ever made. She has been in activities since April 19, 2007 and loves every minute of it.
Q: Describe a special memory you have in Barstow.
A: Knowing Susan Porter and Della Allomong. Susan was the best activity coordinator the home ever had. I learned a lot from her, and everybody loved her. She was so devoted to our veterans, but unfortunately she is no longer with us. Susan was a remarkable woman and she will always be missed. She was my mentor. Della Allomong was also a wonderful person. She devoted her time to our vets also. She was the best volunteer ever. She also was loved by everyone here.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I love cooking, especially Mexican food. Not as good as my mother, but I think I do good. I love making chile rellenos, chile verde, sopes, etc.
Q: Tell us one thing that most people don’t know about you.
A: I used to sing with Mariachi when I was in school in Mexico. I was very athletic when I was in elementary school. I participated in basketball games, football games and running.
Q: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
A: People caring from one another.
Q: If you could change one thing about Barstow, what would it be?
A: Bring more jobs in.
Q: What person, living or from history, would you most like to have dinner with and why?
A: Mother Teresa. Her love for people and her kindness in general.
Q: Who is someone who had a big influence on your life?
A: My mother — she was my best friend. She was a single mother and raised nine kids on her own.
Q: What talent do you most wish you had?
A: Writing. I would like to able to write a book about my mother’s life as I know it. Everything she had to go through to be able to clear her name and become an American citizen.
Q: What is your favorite quotation?
A: “Our Residents are not an Interruption of our work they are the Reason for our employment.”
Q: What words of advice do you have for the next generation?
A: Respect each other and love one another.
Q: Tell us about the charities or causes that are close to your heart and why.
A: City of Hope, Breast Cancer, and St. Jude’s Children foundation.
Q: What is something you are particularly proud of?
A: To earn my GED, going back to school, becoming an activity coordinator and becoming an American citizen in 2008.
Q: What’s your favorite movie and why?
A: Shrek. I love animated movies and comedy.
Q: Tell us about your favorite thing about living in Barstow?
A: Working the Veterans Home
Q: What is the best thing about your job?
A: Working with our residents, making a difference in their lives as well as them making me a better person.
Q: What book had a significant impact on you?
A: Left Behind.
Q: Of all the places you’ve been, what’s your favorite and why?
A: Hawaii. It’s like a paradise.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
A: Hawaii. Just a piece of heaven. I went to Hawaii with a group of our residents to the National Golden Age Games two years ago. It was a great experience for me.
Q: Tell us about one thing you want to accomplish in life.
A: I would like to become a rehab therapist or an activity director.
Q: What’s your favorite place to eat in Barstow?
A: Domingo’s. They have the best margaritas and bartenders. And most of all, they are very friendly.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: I want to believe In Heaven.
Q: What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
A: Junk food, potato chips, hot dogs and popcorn.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
A: Thank you to all our residents for all their love and support that they have given me through all the years I have been working at the home. They are the reason why we all have our freedom.