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2011 Superheroes for Washington families: Sebrena and Rena Mateja Burr

Sebrena and Rena Mateja Burr, Wellspring Family ServicesSebrena and Rena Mateja Burr, Wellspring Family Services

They’re a powerful mother-daughter duo, a force to be reckoned with when it comes to helping low-income and homeless children in Washington. Sebrena often takes her case to state legislators, working for change at the policy level. Her 7-year-old daughter, Rena Mateja, is best known for her grassroots work collecting pennies to assist homeless youth through Wellspring Family Services.

Rena Mateja’s fundraising abilities are legend. She recently went door to door, collecting $506 in loose change to help homeless children. Then, via video, Rena Mateja requested that 1,000 attendees at Wellspring’s Powerful Change luncheon also give $506. Of those present, 110 each donated that amount, raising a total of $55,660.

Now the first-graders at Rena Mateja’s school, South Shore PreK-8 in Rainier Beach, are collecting coins for Wellspring’s Kids Helping Kids campaign. Her work has not gone unnoticed. In honor of Rena Mateja, local kids’ performer Caspar Babypants wrote a song called “Happy Heart,” which challenges kids to be more like Rena Mateja.

“Rena Mateja and Sebrena are proof that all of us have the power to affect the change we wish to see in our community,” says Patricia Gray, community relations manager at Wellspring. “Sebrena dedicates every waking hour to improving the lives of vulnerable children and families in our community.

“After Rena Mateja sets and accomplishes one goal, she simply moves on to set another, astonishing us all over again,” says Gray. “She’s a 7-year-old on a mission.” — Karen Dawson

Get to know Sebrena and Rena Mateja Burr...

Personal hero: Roxana Norouzi

Pet peeve: People who do not recognize an individual’s disability because it is not visible to the eye, and meanness and cruelty towards children of all kinds.

Best recent read: The Stolen Ones and How They Were Missed by Marcia Tate Arunga

Best way to get kids involved in giving back: Teach them to advocate with you. When they have an idea, help them to make it happen. Show them ways they can make a difference from right where they are. When they do something to help others, praise them and let them know you are proud of them and their actions.

Up Next: Michael Schindler, Operation Military Family  >>

Flip ahead to meet the rest of our 2011 Superheroes:
Shandra Benito, Reach Out
Estela Ortega and Roberto Maestas, El Centro De La Raza
Karen Kodama, Seattle Public Schools
Dr. Beth Harvey, pediatrician
Ron Sher, creator of local retail centers
Rebecca Mallos, Attachment and Trauma Specialists
Mike Heinisch, Kent Youth and Family Services
Karen Bryant, The Seattle Storm

Flip back to see previous 2011 Superheroes:
Dan Savage, It Gets Better Project
2011 Superheroes: Home

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