MAF Celebrates 15-Year Anniversary with Quinceañera
MAF turned 15 this year, and of course, we had to celebrate with a quinceañera! This was our first in-person gathering in over two years, bringing together clients, partners, funders, friends, and of course, MAFistas, all under the same roof.
The evening was all about community and connection. “There was really no distinction between staff, funders, board members, La Cocina caterers,” said Katherine Robles-Ayala, MAF’s Philanthropy Manager. “Everyone was just enjoying each other’s company. I don’t know if I could see this anywhere else beyond MAF. [It] was just really beautiful.”
Together, we reflected, we celebrated, and we dreamed. And we did so in the neighborhood where it all started — in San Francisco’s Mission District. KQED generously hosted the party in their newly-renovated HQ, and we filled all four stories with good food and good music. Between the rooftop dance floor, La Santa Cecilia’s concert, and food catered by MAF clients at La Cocina, there were plenty of highlights:
MAF Founder and CEO, José A. Quiñonez, kicked off the evening with welcome remarks. He started from the beginning: when a Levi Strauss denim factory closed down in the Mission and paved the way for a new possibility — a new organization that would support the financial lives of low-income immigrants.
“MAF was a gamble from day one,” José said. “We started our work just up the road from here, on the second floor, on top of a local cafe. We had a small office but a big vision.”
From MAF’s origin story to the nationwide organization it is today, MAF has always worked to put the best of finance and technology in the service of immigrants. José recalled stories about working with clients to build their credit scores after being excluded from mainstream finances, showing up for DACA recipients when the Trump administration threatened DACA’s existence, and launching the largest guaranteed income program for immigrant families excluded from federal COVID-19 relief to help them recover faster.
These zero-interest loans and grants supported immigrants and people of color – helping them to build credit scores, increase savings, and lower debts. And since opening our doors, we have serviced more than 90,000 grants and loans, reaching thousands of people across the country.
“We have to show a better path forward,” José said. “And we are doing it by building real solutions rooted in the lives of marginalized people, and by celebrating every victory with joy.”
Of course, we didn’t do this work alone. In quinceañera tradition, MAF named a Padrino and Madrina of the night. Padrinos and Madrinas are more than party sponsors — they are mentors, role models, advisors, and guides. “They hold a special role in every quinceañera for this very reason — they are the living examples of what brings us together — the bonds, the relationships — that keep communities alive and thriving,” shared José.
MAF presented the Padrino Award to John A. Sobrato, Board Chair Emeritus of the Sobrato Family Foundation, for his support of immigrant families in San Mateo County, and the Madrina Award to Jenny Flores, Wells Fargo’s Head of Small Business Growth Philanthropy, for championing MAF’s work for years while challenging us to show up and do more for immigrant small business owners. Each shared stories about their special connections to MAF before being presented with an engraved-butterfly wood carving. “Viva the Mission Asset Fund!” John said.
When MAF throws a party, we throw a party for everyone. That means everything — from the floral arrangements to the music — represents the people who make up MAF’s work.
La Cocina caterers Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas, El Huarache Loco, El Pipila, Los Cilantros, Delicioso Creperie, La Luna Cupcakes, and Sweets Collection prepared the food — with a special twist. Almost every entrepreneur had worked with MAF at some point. Guests came back again and again for seconds of bite-sized “lollipop” tamales, flowers suspended in gelatin, and tostadas topped with halibut ceviche and nopales.
Of course, one of the highlights of the evening was definitely the Grammy Award-winning band, La Santa Cecilia. Known for their hybrid style of Latin culture, rock, and pop, La Santa Cecilia turned the KQED auditorium into a dance floor. Dance partners pulled each other into the cumbia and slow dances throughout the night.
And, at the night’s end, La Santa Cecilia band members joined clients, MAFistas, and partners on the rooftop dance floor. This turn of events wasn’t all that surprising. The quinceañera radiated with collective energy, bringing people together and encouraging them to make new connections. One MAFista shared a special moment with La Santa Cecilia, when he found out that the keyboardist hailed from the same hometown as him.
“He went to the same pizza spot to watch soccer games and play maquinitas that I grew up with,” Efrain Segundo, MAF’s Financial Education and Engagement Manager, said. “We had a moment now, like ‘you know me, I know you.’”
At the end of the program, José asked everyone to close their eyes and ask themselves:
“What change do you want to see in the world today that can unlock the immense human and economic potential of immigrants, people of color, and marginalized communities?”
“What change do you want to see in the world today that can liberate our dreams, unleash our hopes, and free us to be our true selves in the world?”
These were the questions that resounded throughout the night, as people poured into the party to find gold trees tied with ribbons and a dream wall. People wrote their wishes onto cards and adorned the trees with them, or drew their answers on the Dream Wall: “Support for farmworkers.” “UBI.” “Dignity + Solidarity.”
These dreams didn’t end with the night. We’re carrying them forward in our work, and we’re doing it together. The quinceañera showed us how important it is to do so in community with one another.
So as a community, we’ll make these dreams into reality. As a community, we’ll show up, do more, and do better for immigrants.