Cancer survivor sets aside personal challenges to feed her community

As needs in our city continue to grow, the coronavirus has complicated reaching those people most in need. The days can be even more complicated by language barriers and job loss in the Latino and Hispanic communities.

With challenges come heroes in the community. Heroes like Maria Urena.

“There are a lot of people struggling. They have to either pay their utility and rent or have to buy food,” Urena said. “It’s just hard to make ends meet.”

In order to fill the gap between bills and meals, Urena brings food to her community.

Since March, the Community Hub has worked with Urena to deliver nearly 400 meals a day to distribute to her neighborhood.

Every day, Charles Robinson, the executive director of Community Hub, and a team of volunteers meet at Northside Baptist Church. They begin early in the morning to get breakfast ready, and then they turn on the ovens to prepare dinner.

From the church, dinners get packed, and lunches are bagged. Then the food is loaded into the volunteers' cars or in the back of Robinson’s pickup truck.

“A long time ago, I was in the same situation,” Urena said. “My life was just like what these families are going through now, and that’s the reason why I have to do this.”

Most days, she will set up a table in front of her home and send a mass text out to her neighbors to let them know the food is available.

Within minutes, people drive up or walk to her home to pick up boxed meals for their families.

“We have community folk that just love their community. We have chefs in our kitchen preparing meals from all over Charlotte,” Robinson said.

Urena has been working with Robinson for over six years to help feed her neighbors. However, two years ago, she had to stop when she discovered a serious health condition.

“I found out I had cancer, so I had to stop,” she said. “But when Mr. Charles came to me a couple of months ago, I knew it was time to get back to helping.”

With resiliency and purpose, Urena unloads meals and, today, gallons of milk. And with a huge smile on her face, she gives to her neighbors in need.

Another barrier is that many in Urena’s neighborhood have not received or aren’t eligible to receive stimulus payments.

“This is necessary to do it for my community,” she said. “It feels good when you give to somebody else; you feel good too.”

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at