by Maria Sanjuan – Part 2 (Conclusion)

Click here to read PART 1 of this story.

Maria Sanjuan portrait

“As HUF began to expand, it became clear that we needed a larger space. With much convincing, the City of Hollywood Commissioners agreed to help us purchase our very first building – an old social security office. We finally had a home of our own! This is where HUF resides to this day.”

Working from a larger space gave us stability, but the job was far from complete. We needed more money and leadership, so we launched HispanicFest in 1987. Despite being rained out on our first attempt, the event became a resounding success. We had streams of cars and long lines of people in the streets to enter the park for the first event; we were so proud. Later, we launched a gala as well. While HUF’s work was still a monumental task, it felt like things were beginning to fall into place.

New Obstacles Emerge

Unfortunately, we still couldn’t afford to pay a CEO with the talent and experience we needed, and new challenges began to emerge. In addition, the census only reported a small number of Hispanics, so we lacked representation.

At this time, the board actually considered closing HUF’s doors. We were being pushed to the edge, and after years of hard work, it was very painful. Thankfully, supporters and members of the board volunteered to run the organization for years, and that helped us pull through.

A Critical Time

The turning point finally came when I applied for a United Way grant, and they funded one of our programs! Finally, our mission was getting the recognition it deserved. We also received support at the county level through Dan Schevis, and soon thereafter from the Community Foundation of Broward.

Other private non-governmental entities eventually joined the cause, including Mr. and Mrs. Moran and JM Family Enterprises (they later created The Jim Moran Foundation), who are always very much in tune with the needs of the community. I am especially, deeply grateful to them and JM Family. Their funding and support represented “the seal of approval” and recognition from a private corporation.

Dreams Come True

maria sanjuan and josieHUF’s 35th anniversary feels like the realization of my dream. I’ve had many challenges as a business woman and as a professional in a male-dominated world – but HUF’s mission was as important to me as my own family. I dedicated countless hours to making this organization a success and it paid off. I have deep faith in God and I know the many blessings I’ve received.

When I invited Josie Bacallao to be part of the Board many years ago (she’s served as CEO since 2004), I believed in her tenacity, passion and know-how to carry out the mission of HUF for years to come.

HUF is proof that the only thing people need is guidance. Show them the way, and they will succeed. I know this because that’s what I – and the rest of the HUF team – have been doing for three-and-a-half decades, with incredible, life-changing results. No matter what, never give up!

– The End –

Click here to read PART 1 of this story.


Maria Sanjuan has served on the boards of many organizations in Broward, including United Way, the Community Foundation of Broward, the Museum of Art, and the Red Cross, among others. She continues to help place people in jobs, and is currently advocating for women’s issues, including human trafficking in South Florida.

sanjuan family

HUF was privileged to be the recipient of philanthropy from Maria’s daughter, Elizabeth Sanjuan, and Ken Brown, her husband.  Their generosity allowed HUF to complete an education center which was renamed in their honor as Casa Sanjuan Education Center. Their gift also supports the Unity 4Kids Preschool and the Center for Working Families Program.

sanjuan center sign

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