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Jonathan Perlman, founder of Tradition Senior Living in Houston & Dallas, TX.

MAM MEMBER CONGREGATIONS

Today, MAM’s member volunteers consist of over 30 churches and one temple, all primarily from the Memorial area.

Every stage along the way of Sonja Gee’s life has, she says, come together to inform her unique position as President and CEO of Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM), where she leads 75 employees and more than 1,500 volunteers per year. “We are a faith-based organization that supports under-resourced families in a variety of ways,” she says with infectious enthusiasm, “primarily in the Spring Branch area.”

One of the important ways that MAM strengthens the community is to help low-income immigrants who have a legal pathway to citizenship. “I’m the daughter of immigrants – my father is originally from China and my mother from Germany,” she said. “They each came to the U.S. looking for opportunities and met in Houston.  My father received a quality education here and became an attorney.”

Sonja, therefore, grew up seeing how people who are given opportunities can thrive.  With her own B.A. in Sociology from Rice University and a master’s degree in Education from Stanford University, she was drawn to enter the field of education.  She moved with her husband to his native Mexico, where the two ran a bookstore that they still own.

“We lived in Mexico for 12 years in a low-income community.  Through the bookstore, I worked with local schools and community organizations to build literacy opportunities,” she said.  When they moved back to Houston to be near her family, Sonja looked for work in education, and the pastor of her childhood church, Grace Presbyterian, recommended that she apply for the Executive Director position at Main Street Ministries.  It was her first non-profit job.

While there, she got to know the long-time CEO of MAM, Martha Macris, who became a mentor to Sonja. “When Martha retired, she encouraged me to consider the opportunity to become MAM’s next leader,” said Sonja. “I’m so glad I did.  MAM is an outstanding organization with a great support base doing important work.  I’m proud to help further its mission.” Now, all the threads of her past impact MAM’s significant ministry, which combines volunteers from more than 30 churches and one Jewish temple, all primarily from the Memorial area in Houston.

Every stage along the way of Sonja Gee’s life has, she says, come together to inform her unique position as President and CEO of Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM), where she leads 75 employees and more than 1,500 volunteers per year. “We are a faith-based organization that supports under-resourced families in a variety of ways,” she says with infectious enthusiasm, “primarily in the Spring Branch area.”

One of the important ways that MAM strengthens the community is to help low-income immigrants who have a legal pathway to citizenship. “I’m the daughter of immigrants – my father is originally from China and my mother from Germany,” she said. “They each came to the U.S. looking for opportunities and met in Houston.  My father received a quality education here and became an attorney.”

Sonja, therefore, grew up seeing how people who are given opportunities can thrive.  With her own B.A. in Sociology from Rice University and a master’s degree in Education from Stanford University, she was drawn to enter the field of education.  She moved with her husband to his native Mexico, where the two ran a bookstore that they still own.

MAM MEMBER CONGREGATIONS

Today, MAM’s member volunteers consist of over 30 churches and one temple, all primarily from the Memorial area.

“We lived in Mexico for 12 years in a low-income community.  Through the bookstore, I worked with local schools and community organizations to build literacy opportunities,” she said.  When they moved back to Houston to be near her family, Sonja looked for work in education, and the pastor of her childhood church, Grace Presbyterian, recommended that she apply for the Executive Director position at Main Street Ministries.  It was her first non-profit job.

While there, she got to know the long-time CEO of MAM, Martha Macris, who became a mentor to Sonja. “When Martha retired, she encouraged me to consider the opportunity to become MAM’s next leader,” said Sonja. “I’m so glad I did.  MAM is an outstanding organization with a great support base doing important work.  I’m proud to help further its mission.” Now, all the threads of her past impact MAM’s significant ministry, which combines volunteers from more than 30 churches and one Jewish temple, all primarily from the Memorial area in Houston.

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“Our programs help people in crisis achieve stability, and then gain critical skills and confidence to become independent—and provide for their families.”

– Sonja Gee 

 

What does MAM do, exactly? “Our programs help people in crisis achieve stability, and then gain critical skills and confidence to become independent—and provide for their families,” says Sonja.

Sarai and Gerardo are one couple whose experience demonstrates exactly how MAM’s network of programs works. “They moved to the U.S. from Venezuela to escape socioeconomic challenges in their home country,” says Sonja.  They were both engineers and were looking for an opportunity to rebuild their lives but didn’t speak English.  So, they attended MAM’s English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.

“The couple was impressed at the high quality, free supportive resources MAM offers,” said Sonja. “First, they attended English classes, then connected with employment services where they received help working on their resumes.  Both were able to get jobs that linked with their previous professional experiences.”

Then, COVID came, and they lost their jobs.  But they were resilient—they worked jobs babysitting, cleaning homes and selling Venezuelan food.  And, MAM provided financial assistance to help pay their rent and utilities.  MAM’s volunteer financial coaches helped them work on creating a business plan to manufacture cleaning supplies, thereby putting to use their skills as chemical engineers. 

“They are well on their way to creating their business start-up,” said Sonja. “It’s a to-be-continued story, but they illustrate the range of services that MAM provides to help people in crisis ultimately thrive.”  MAM provides so much more: tutors for Citizenship Classes, mental health counseling, and financial education, as well as vocational trainings—including Phlebotomy (drawing blood), Certified Nurse Aide and Administrative Assistant.

And if someone doesn’t know which job would suit him or her the best? “We provide volunteer job coaches, many of whom are retired from the corporate world,” said Sonja. “These coaches meet with the beneficiaries personally and help them identify their gifts and talents and recommend how these talents can be used.”

And all the above accomplished through the capable leadership of Sonja Gee.

For more information, see www.mamhouston.org

What does MAM do, exactly? “Our programs help people in crisis achieve stability, and then gain critical skills and confidence to become independent—and provide for their families,” says Sonja.

Sarai and Gerardo are one couple whose experience demonstrates exactly how MAM’s network of programs works. “They moved to the U.S. from Venezuela to escape socioeconomic challenges in their home country,” says Sonja.  They were both engineers and were looking for an opportunity to rebuild their lives but didn’t speak English.  So, they attended MAM’s English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.

“The couple was impressed at the high quality, free supportive resources MAM offers,” said Sonja. “First, they attended English classes, then connected with employment services where they received help working on their resumes.  Both were able to get jobs that linked with their previous professional experiences.”

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Then, COVID came, and they lost their jobs.  But they were resilient—they worked jobs babysitting, cleaning homes and selling Venezuelan food.  And, MAM provided financial assistance to help pay their rent and utilities.  MAM’s volunteer financial coaches helped them work on creating a business plan to manufacture cleaning supplies, thereby putting to use their skills as chemical engineers. 

“They are well on their way to creating their business start-up,” said Sonja. “It’s a to-be-continued story, but they illustrate the range of services that MAM provides to help people in crisis ultimately thrive.”  MAM provides so much more: tutors for Citizenship Classes, mental health counseling, and financial education, as well as vocational trainings—including Phlebotomy (drawing blood), Certified Nurse Aide and Administrative Assistant.

And if someone doesn’t know which job would suit him or her the best? “We provide volunteer job coaches, many of whom are retired from the corporate world,” said Sonja. “These coaches meet with the beneficiaries personally and help them identify their gifts and talents and recommend how these talents can be used.”

And all the above accomplished through the capable leadership of Sonja Gee.

For more information, see www.mamhouston.org

“Our programs help people in crisis achieve stability, and then gain critical skills and confidence to become independent—and provide for their families.”

– Sonja Gee 

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