Maria Santiago Lillis was a hero of working people. Her life’s work left a lasting mark on everyone who knew her and will continue on for generations.

To ensure her legacy lives on, last year the IAM instituted Maria Santiago Lillis Advocacy Day – A Commitment to Serve, also known as ACTS, which will take place each year on August 10th – Sister Lillis’ birthday.

Maria believed in giving back to her community – offering a helping hand, or heart was second nature. That’s why this year, the IAM Western Territory chose Homeboy Industries, an organization committed to improving the lives of former gang members and ex-cons in the Los Angeles area. Like Maria, they too, believe in second chances.

At the start of each day, people from the community fill the lobby, stairs, and second-floor balcony at Homeboy Industries for prayer – kind words are passed through the mic from people currently working the 18-month employment and re-entry program – and transformation stories are shared. While this room may be filled with troubled pasts – their hearts are full of hope.

IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen, along with other members of the Western Territory staff toured the main facility, led by Ramon, who served over 20 years in prison. He walked through these doors 16 months ago and hasn’t looked back. The program has provided him with a path to freedom and a new beginning.

As part of honoring Maria, GVP Allen presented Homeboy Industries with a monetary donation to help these men and women on their new journey. Next, they headed over to Homeboy Electronics Recycling, an e-waste recycling facility that employs and rehabilitates participants in the program. Here they break down and recycle electronics such as computers, cell phones, and radios, wipe hard drives much more.

“Homeboy Industries is exactly the type of advocacy Maria loved to participate with,” said Allen. “There are so many people in this country who simply need to be shown the skills to provide for themselves and their families. This nonprofit is doing what Maria loved to do; mend broken lives and bring hope to those who lacked opportunity growing up. Many of us who grew up in undesirable situations and tough places can name people in our life’s path who showed us the way – Maria was one of those precious people who served others by showing them the way to a better life. I can’t think of a better place to honor the legacy of Maria Santiago Lillis by answering a call to service such as Homeboy Industries.”   

The idea is to give people a safe place to discard these items, declutter their homes and offices and give back to an organization that helps thousands every year.

Recycling containers will be dropped off at IAM lodges and facilities where IAM members work – and picked up by Homeboys after 30 days. Anyone from the community can drop off unwanted electronics to be recycled.

Another added bonus is – it’s safe. Homeboy Recycling holds several certifications, including R2 or Responsible Recycling, which governs the way sensitive data and hazardous materials are handled.

In the near future, the IAM Western Territory and Homeboy Industries hope to form a partnership, developing apprenticeship programs throughout the southern California area – teaching participants a trade that will lead to a career and a good union job.

Every day is a second chance to do better. The legacy our sister Maria has left behind, along with organizations like Homeboys allows people to heal, mend broken pasts, and form unbreakable bonds. Blood doesn’t make a family – love does.

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