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3 Cheers: Maria Nieves Gives Helpings Of Hope

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A food pantry coordinator whose energy and spirit are helping hundreds of people is the subject of this week's 3 Cheers. A prayer is how the day starts for The Simple Way team in Kensington.

And then: "OK, we got five minutes!"

Blink and you'll miss her...

"Go, go, go!"

...but there is a very special person who helps make this food pantry tick.

It's Maria Nieves. She's the neighborhood support coordinator at The Simple Way. Her job includes helping clients with food and shelter.

"Filing for food stamps, whatever it is they need, I make sure that I get it for them," Nieves said.

Nieves knows the needs of her clients because she used to be one.

"I was going through my struggles, being a homeless parent with two kids," Nieves said.

In 2011, Nieves moved from a domestic violence shelter in New York to Philly. Down the street, she found food at The Simple Way.

"After being on The Simple Way food line for a couple of weeks, I emailed The Simple Way and I asked them if they needed any help," Nieves said. "Just seeing how many people were in need of food just motivated me more."

After several months of volunteering, The Simple Way offered Nieves a job. That was nine years ago. She has stayed motivated for her clients no matter what, even through cancer.

"I can't say that I dealt with my breast cancer issues," Nieves said. "I just told the doctor, 'I've got a job. I've got my clients. They need me. I'll do whatever needs to be done.'"

Nieves's coworker Miguel Diaz said they are true partners.

"She got my right side, she's got my left side. We work together great," Diaz said.

The Simple Way's windows are full of colorful pieces of paper with handwritten lists of organizations' names and numbers in both English and Spanish.

"I have a lot of homeless, so I give them the shelter listing, where they can go take showers, just everything that is basically needed -- resources that I know," Nieves said.

We're giving 3 Cheers to Nieves for not only providing resources and food, but also a helping of hope.

"Maria! Maria!" sang one woman as she squeezed her in a bear hug. "I love my Maria!"

"I don't like what I do," Nieves said. "I actually love what I do."

Nieves also collects clothing for her clients and helps dress those who need it.

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