‘Love Beyond’ story series: Fargo family perseveres

Nov 14, 2023

The ‘Love Beyond’ story series highlights people in Minnesota and North Dakota whose lives changed because of your donations to The Salvation Army Northern Division. Love Beyond is a Salvation Army campaign to show those in need that love exists beyond their most difficult situations – be it hunger, overdue bills, eviction, addiction, and other hardships.

Every time Carlos and Marlene thought life couldn’t get any worse, it did. 

Until two years ago, everything was going great for them. Carlos had a steady job as a grain inspector in Fargo, N.D., while Marlene stayed home with their four young kids. The family had moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in the mid-2010s.

Tragedy struck during winter 2021 while the family was on vacation at an indoor waterpark. They returned home to find that the mobile home they were renting had been burglarized, and their neighbors – rather than call the police – had looted the place.

“There were footprints everywhere in the house,” Carlos said. “Everything we had was gone.” 

To make matters worse, the front door was left wide open in the dead of winter, causing all of the pipes to burst. The ice-coated home was a total loss.

Suddenly, Carlos and Marlene and their four young kids were homeless.

The hits keep coming

The family lived in hotels until they found a cheap apartment to rent. Several months after they moved into the apartment, Carlos severely injured his back and couldn't work. He was in a wheelchair for five months, and the family's landlord chose not to renew their lease during winter 2022.

The family was homeless again. But this time, they had no income other than the modest unemployment checks Carlos received every two weeks.

Each check provided enough money to buy one week’s worth of hotel stays. For the other week, the family lived in their minivan until a new check arrived. At night, Marlene would help Carlos out of his wheelchair into a front passenger seat of the van. She would sleep in the other front seat, and the kids would sleep in the back.

Throughout the night, Carlos would turn on the van and crank up the heat whenever the temperatures were too cold to bear.

“I couldn't afford enough gas to keep the van on all night,” Carlos recalled. “I was so depressed. I was completely hopeless. I kept thinking, ‘What am I going to do with my family?’”


Eventually, Carlos' back healed and he found another cheap apartment for his family to live in. But after all that had happened, the family still faced an uphill battle to return to self-sufficiency.

That's where your gifts to The Salvation Army have come in. Late this summer, Carlos and Marlene came to the Fargo Salvation Army and asked for help. Our caseworker, Sarah (pictured), assisted by providing: 

  • Groceries
  • Gas cards
  • Rent assistance
  • Back-to-school supplies
  • Clothing for their four kids, ages 2, 6, 9 and 10

The family also enrolled in Pathway of Hope, a long- term mentoring program that helps low-income families overcome poverty. Through this program, Sarah is helping Marlene obtain her driver's license and aiding Carlos in finding job training for a stable, long-term career.

“Carlos and Marlene are gracious and hard-working people who, no matter how hard they've tried, just can't seem to catch a break,” Sarah said. "It's been an honor to serve them.”

For the first time in two years, Carlos is optimistic about his family’s future.

"I want to say thank you to all the people who donate to The Salvation Army,” Carlos said. “I'm not a lazy person and I have really needed this help. My family has been through a lot and we are happy for this opportunity. The Salvation Army is a very good friend to us.”

This holiday season, The Salvation Army is calling on all of our supporters to Love Beyond. Join us by giving a donationsigning up to volunteer, or ringing bells at a Red Kettle.

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