As the second oldest child in a family of 11, Dolores Escobedo, Marana Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year, remembers what it was like to go hungry.
"I grew up poor in a large family and there were days we didn't have food on our table," said Escobedo, office manager for the Marana Food Bank and the person responsible for distributing an average of 400 food boxes a month throughout the year and twice that number during the holiday season.
"When I was young, we didn't know anything about food banks and my parents wouldn't even consider asking for help anyway," she said.
Escobedo grew up in Agua Prieta, Mexico, where her father was a laborer in construction, but making barely enough to support the family. Her parents divorced when she was five and her mom went to work in a restaurant, leaving Escobedo to care for her brothers and sisters.
There were days without milk and only potatoes, beans and soups to eat, she said.
Her mom remarried when Esobedo was seven and the family came to Marana where her stepfather had a job working in the cotton fields. The family continued to struggle, however, becuse of the stepfather's meager pay. "I remember during the holidays people would bring us food and clothes," she said.
"Seeing as how I grew up that way, and knowing people today might be going through the same thing at home, you know it just helps me feel good to help put food on someone else's table that didn't have it before, especially children. They don't deserve to go hungry.
"What I like best about the job is seeing people's faces when you help them out," said Escobedo, a Marana resident since 1973. "You know you've done something good when you've given them a food box and they've had nothing to eat at home. They're so grateful for what they've gotten."
Escobedo, the mother of four children ages 15 through 19, has been serving as Marana Food Bank office manager for the past three years since being recommended by a friend of Ora Mae Harn, former director of the Marana Health Center.
The timing fit in perfectly with her desire to continue helping the needy while working closer to home. Prior to that, she had been the manager of an assisted living facility.
"As manager of the Marana Food Bank she really takes to heart assisting those in need," said Escobedo's husband, Tim, a Marana town councilman. "She was pretty well brought up to take care of all the members of her family and she's been helping people pretty much all of her life."
When things get tight, Escobedo is out seeking donations, conducting food drives and helping to rustle up volunteers to make up for the loss of two paid staff members lost late last year and the constant turnover of the two dozen volunteers the Food Bank counts on for assistance.
Escobedo also has been actively involved in the Pima Youth Partnership, a nonprofit organization working with rural and low income communities in the areas of alcohol and drug abuse, family strengthening, teen pregnancy prevention, life skills preparation and after school programs and activities, as well as Miracle in Marana, formerly Miracle on 31st Street, an annual Christmas party for the community's low income families.
Escobedo's primary involvement with the Pima Youth Partnership has been with the group's Youth and Family Resource Network, a program that assists in connecting low-income families with whatever services might be available through public agencies and nonprofits from behavioral health and family services to finding transportation for people to get to their jobs.
Despite the demands on her, "Dolores has always helped in any way she can," said Denise Hardy, community development director and a Marana team leader with the Pima Youth Partnership. "That's just the kind of person she is."