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Colombian family, baby girl call motel their home
Olga and Adolfo Cuartas cradle their newborn granddaughter, Catalina, who was born to their 17-year-old daughter while they’ve been living out of a Gainesville motel with no income. - photo by Carlos Galarza

Like an angel from heaven, Beronica Nash appeared at a room in the back of an economy motel on Jesse Jewell Parkway to drop off groceries, a fruit platter and baby formula to a Colombian family trying to get by each day without income.

Nash operates a startup nonprofit called Dorcas Place. She rides through town filling her van with donations and distributing them to needy families.

On a day that was looking bleak for gray-bearded Adolfo Cuartas and his family, Nash came bearing her timely gifts. The act of kindness brought a smile to the face of Cuartas, his wife Olga, and their teenage daughter, Diana, who earlier this month gave birth to an 8-pound baby girl — Catalina.

“When I learned what this family is going through, I knew I had to help,” Nash said.

The family has been living in the motel room for a year now after Cuartas could no longer afford a house they were renting in Oakwood.

Although Cuartas said he was making $14.35 an hour working on the assembly line at Primex Plastics in Oakwood, almost all his salary was going to pay the house rent of $950 a month, utilities, food and other expenses.

“They were taking too much out of my paycheck for Social Security and taxes,” Cuartas said.

Although cramped in their motel room, the family relieved some of the financial pressures. Cuartas now was paying $206 a week to keep his family in a motel room.

“We don’t have to pay for electricity, water and maintenance,” Cuartas said.

That relief was short lived when he almost had three fingers severed on the assembly line during an accident at his job in May.

To make matters worse, the hospital where he was treated administered pain medicine before taking blood samples required by his job for worker’s compensation. He is being denied worker’s compensation benefits for testing positive for the pain medicine he was given at the hospital.

Cuartas was referred to a local law firm that filed court papers on his behalf to contest his loss of worker’s comp. Since then, a hearing on the case has been delayed three times. In the meantime, Cuartas is without work and money.

In the course of the calamity, Olga Cuartas has been in and out of the hospital with complications from her type 1 diabetes. She’s also on dialysis because both her kidneys are failing, and is losing her sight.

“It’s disheartening,” she said in Spanish. “I can’t work or do anything to help the family.”

Adolfo and Olga have been married 34 years. They lived most of those years in New Jersey where all three of their children were born.

With the addition of baby Catalina from their youngest daughter, Adolfo and Olga now have seven grandchildren.

Rent at the motel is due by Friday around noon each week. Cuartas said he pulled the $206 together at the last moment by borrowing money from friends and relatives. There have been weeks that local churches have come to their rescue.

The family thought they were going to get state assistance for food and Medicaid for Olga when someone came by the motel and had them fill out papers. More than two weeks have gone by and they’ve not heard back. They’ve been advised to go personally to the Division of Family and Children Services on McEver Road to apply again for assistance.

“With God’s help, we’ll get by,” Adolfo Cuartas said.

Read more stories in the series.

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