Vivian Peña shows some of the sleeping situations for a family of 12 in a small home south of Maricopa. Photo by Adam Wolfe.

Vivian and Manuel Peña gave up their golden years to raise a total of 13 grandchildren and great-grandchildren after tragedy struck their family.

Vivian and Manuel were born and raised in Arizona. They met while working in the fields and were married as teenagers. They worked hard to build a comfortable life for themselves, and planned to retire in peace. However, due to tragic circumstances, they now raise 10 of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in their four-bedroom home.

Nearly 13 years ago, the Peña family one of their five daughters to a stroke. Since the father of her children had taken his own life a year before, Vivian and Manuel didn’t hesitate to take their grandchildren into their home.

Four years after the sudden loss of their daughter, they had another daughter run into legal issues, and her seven children needed a place to stay. Once again, Vivian and Manuel opened up their home.

“I’ve had them for 13 years now,” Vivian Pena said. “They’re like my kids. Not my grandkids or my great-grandkids, but my kids. I don’t think they’d be happy anywhere else.”

Just as the grandchildren were starting to grow up and leave the house, one of the Pena’s grandchildren ran into legal troubles of her own, and her six children also needed a place to stay. However, Vivian and Manuel were only able to bring two of the children into their home. Their niece was able to take in two more, but sadly, two of the children were sent into the foster care system.

“It broke my heart to only be able to get two, but at least I can see two of the other children as well,” Vivian Pena said.

Due to the young age (5 and 7) of the two great-grandchildren, the Arizona Department of Child Safety has monitored their living conditions closely. DCS determined changes would need to be made to the Pena’s home if the young boys were going to live there.

“My house is too small for all of us,” Vivian Peña said. “They want my daughter to move and take her (six) kids and for us to stay with our four kids.”

After hearing about the situation, Maricopa Real Estate Company associate broker Jay Shaver decided to put together an action plan to help the family. His initial plan is to bring another home onto the property for the Peña’s daughter and her children to live in. This would provide the needed space, but the cost and bringing in new water and sewage lines could be too much.

In an effort to raise awareness about the Peña family among the community, Maricopa Real Estate Company and  F.O.R. Maricopa have teamed up. On Oct. 10, the Maricopa Real Estate Company will be hosting a fund-raiser at their offices from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for members of the community to drop off goods, clothes or money to help the Pena family. The F.O.R. Maricopa will serve as a drop off for large items such as beds or dressers, while also accepting monetary donations into their Wells Fargo account (#9738586511) online through Pay Pal. Since the account is linked to the food bank, all donations will be tax deductible.

“Anything helps,” Vivian Peña said. “We hope the community can help any way they can. With clothing, cleaning the yard, with food or money; anything they can help with helps us.”

For more details on the Vivian and Manuel Peña’s story, look for the October edition of InMaricopa News, available Thursday.

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