At the age of 92, Marie Saavedra has spent the last 29 years working at the Samaritan House warehouse in downtown Denver, continuing her days offering her warm heart to those seeking it. Marie always believed that compassion was the key to a happy life.
“Every day, I wake up excited to go to work. And every night, I thank God for everyone I have encountered that day and pray that they know how much God loves them. He tells me, too, how much He loves me.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only 4.4% of the workforce is 90 years old or older. If you were to shadow Marie on any given day, you would be floored to know she is a part of that 90 years or older percentage. Her heart for service and faith in humanity keeps her youthful.
Marie’s journey of service began at the young age of 16 years old when she entered the workforce, caring for babies at the baby annex at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She went on to give birth to six of her own children, a calling she’d been preparing for. Having a large family was always important to her. She takes pride in having most of her children in a close radius and beams at the five generations who call her mom, grandma, great-grandma and even great-great-grandma.
While raising her children, Marie also worked as a caregiver for seniors. Her gift of holding the hands of any single person, at any age, during any hardship never wavered. She shares a story of one woman she fondly cared for during her last years.
“I remember having a special bond with this woman, Grace. I’d sit with her, and she’d tell me all sorts of stories. She entrusted me with her wedding ring before she passed, knowing that I’d give it to her daughter. It was an honor I never took lightly. When I gave the ring to her daughter, she told me how much Grace loved me,” Marie said. She thought “If only I could make someone happy like that.”
Marie has added many stories of her own. After decades of caretaking, she joined a community center for older adults to spend the brief chapter of her retirement. She met someone at the center who connected her to the job at Samaritan House. It was part-time, close to her house and seemed like a Godsend. Her days of helping the vulnerable populations weren’t over.
In her everyday effort to “make someone happy”, she recalls an experience of a man who came to the warehouse, nervously seeking a suit to wear for an interview. As she had done hundreds of times before, she got him exactly what he needed and offered her advice. Two years later, that same man made the trip to the warehouse to share with Marie that he had gotten that job he interviewed for. He came to bring her a guardian angel pin, sharing with her that she had helped him get the job, with the confidence she instilled in him.
Of the many hundreds of stories she has to share, many triumphant, many challenging, she remains resilient. Her presence has kept the Samaritan House warehouse operation a staple in the Denver community.
“Marie’s faith is at the heart of everything she does…it comes out in her smile and her endless hours of service. She makes me smile every day she comes in to work,” said Mary Larsen, director of warehousing and kitchen operations.
For the past two years, the migrant population has come to rely on the Samaritan House warehouse as a lifeline. Some days, Marie and the warehouse team cater to 150 new individuals each day, giving them a sack lunch and clothing. There are days that are much harder than others, but the encouragement Marie shares with each person is always the same.
Her close colleagues feel blessed to spend their days with Marie. “She is an inspiration to all of us. I look up to Marie,” shared warehouse manager Dianne Montoya
During the days where she caters to hundreds of people, she shares that “if God keeps giving me the physical ability, I will keep doing it. I make sure to stretch every night and thank Him for the body I have to provide hope to people.”
As the years roll on, Marie continues to be an unstoppable force at Samaritan House. Her unwavering dedication and contagious enthusiasm have inspired thousands, a reminder that kindness has no age requirement.
“I thank God for the joy this life brings me and the strength He gives me to keep doing it.”