To say that Maria Salaiz-Valdez has her hands full is an understatement. Fifteen years ago, when she received a call from the Department of Child Safety saying that she needed to take in her grandson, Joshua, because his parents could not care for him, she didn’t think twice.

Since then, the 72-year-old North Central Phoenix woman has been raising a family a second time around while holding down a full-time job at an age when most people plan to retire. Early in her journey parenting her grandson, she discovered Duet: Partners In Health & Aging, a nonprofit that provides support groups, resources and referrals to grandparents raising grandchildren.

“I attend all the workshops I can and have met some wonderful people along the way,” Salaiz-Valdez said. “Through Duet’s supportive services, I learned that the word ‘can’t’ doesn’t exist.”

She and Joshua, 15, a sophomore at ASU Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, have a busy routine. Joshua gets to bed no later than 10 p.m. and Salaiz-Valdez said “his priority is his school work, feed the dog and turtle.” She gets up by 5:30 a.m., takes Joshua to school no later than 7:15 a.m. and then heads to work.

Last year, her family experienced heartbreak when her son, Tom, who was Joshua’s father, died. Salaiz-Valdez said she honors his memory by raising Joshua in a loving home.

The holidays this time of year will keep Salaiz-Valdez and her family busy.

“My plate is full over the holidays,” she said. “We celebrate Thanksgiving at my daughter’s; I always make the turkey and the ham. On Christmas I always go to midnight mass; being Catholic it means a lot to me. We do one gift on Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day watch out! We have tamales, and menudo and all that good Mexican food.”

Besides supporting grandparents raising grandchildren, Duet also provides vitally needed services to homebound adults, family caregivers and faith communities. Salaiz-Valdez volunteers by taking a local homebound adults to the grocery store and by helping homebound adults with handyperson services, computer tasks and by mentoring other grandparents raising their grandchildren.

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