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Maida Apodaca and her son Michael Apodaca

For years, my husband, Henry, and I exchanged gifts with family and friends for Christmas. One year, I wrote them and asked that they do something for someone in need in our name in lieu of a holiday gift to us. We would do the same in their name. And so began our family tradition.

Two years later, after reading a two inch column in the El Paso Times about Casas por Cristo, we decided to donate our “Christmas monies” to the organization. Then in 1995, we joined with Park Hills Christian Church in El Paso, Texas to take part in our first Casas por Cristo build. We went on one more build with Park Hills after that.

Then, in October of 1997, Henry made arrangements to “build our own house” (as he put it) for Make a Difference Day. Eleven Apodaca family members, the youngest 40 years old, built a two room home for Ignacia Sanchez, an 81 year old widow in Juárez, México. After that, we kept building our own house as a family every year.

After several years of building a two-room home on each trip, we graduated to building two three-room homes on one trip, one of which brought us a Make a Difference Day award. We then moved on to building three-room homes each time. We even had the honor of building three special school projects, one of which was a kindergarten for 40 students. The other two school buildings were for 60 special needs students. Now it is 2017, and although my husband is no longer with us, the “Apodaca Family & Friends” team, as we call ourselves, organized by my son, Michael Apodaca, continues to build every April and also every October on Make a Difference Day.

We have been nationally recognized for our efforts. But we do not do it for the accolades and awards. We do it because the need is there, because we are so blessed, and because these are our hard-working neighbors who do not look for handouts, but can use a helping hand – our helping hand. We recognize and appreciate that we have everything we need. The rest is just “I want.” We can use our “I want” monies for good works instead.

” For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  – Ephesians 2:10