MIAMI -- An unlikely friendship between a woman struggling with homelessness and two Miami-Dade Police Department employees is proving how the little things can make a big difference.
Miami-Dade Police dispatcher Nicole Sears loves to offer a helping hand. So, when neighborhood resource officer Leonard Cantave asked for a favor she jumped at the chance.
"Officer Contave reached out to me and asked if I would help him create some sort of way to receive funds for her," she said.
It all started just days earlier, the day after Christmas.
"I had a problem with my car and my battery," Maria Isabel Garcia said.
"You know it's the holidays. She's alone. No gas for her car. That was pretty sad, and I'm blessed enough to help her out," said Cantave.
When he stopped to help, Cantave realized Garcia needed much more than just a jump. She needed a fresh start.
"She pretty much was homeless. So, I took her to the gas station, filled up her tank for her, and went to the mechanic shop and spoke to the owner and they gave her a brand-new battery for her car," Cantave said.
"He asked me what happened, what happened to you? You live here? Why? And I explained to him I don't have a job at this moment," Garcia said.
Garcia had fallen on hard times during the pandemic.
She lost her job as a security guard — then her license expired. And without the funds to pay to renew it — she was stuck and has been ever since. Alone — and living out of her van.
"I don't have anybody. I don't have family; I don't have friends. I don't have a husband. I don't have anybody" Garcia said. "I cried so many times inside this car. Alone. But nobody saw me".
So, Sears and Cantave put their heads together — and within a month, raised enough money to renew Garcia's car insurance and registration, renew her security license so she could work, and also give her some gas money.
Those little steps — enough to get Garcia back out there and working again.
And so, with the help of these two MDPD employees — Garcia is getting a chance at a fresh start. She is working again as a security guard, is applying for housing — and they say this is just the beginning.
"I just started it and I want to finish it. Make sure she gets a house, hopefully, she gets a better car, and then once that is done I think my job is done, then onto the next project" said Cantave.
That sentiment — and that chance encounter — is why Maria says she will forever be grateful.
"So, I love you, I love him, I love him so much because he's a good person. He's a good guy. He's an angel. He's my angel," Garcia said.
And this truly is just the beginning. Sears and Cantave were so inspired by how they were able to help Garcia they started a non-profit to help others like her: Blue Hearts of South Florida.
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