PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) —The Salvation Army’s Empty Stocking Fund is crucial for the organization to continue their mission throughout the new year.

It allows them to continue helping domestic violence victims.

The organization gets the opportunity to help domestic violence survivors like Maria.

When Maria sold all of her belongings and left a successful career in Brazil, she was in pursuit of a loving marriage and father to her son.

“When you meet someone that tells you a lot of things that you want to hear and ‘I love you, I’m going to do everything for you, I will love you, this is going to be my last time to marry, come on, let’s do it, let’s try.’ And I said ok I’m going to try and [he said] I’ll treat your son like my son,” Maria said.

In just three and half months, she realized she had left her freedom and independence in Brazil.

“You know, the way that he treats you, the way that he treats your son, yelling, cursing, you start to say a lot of bad things about you,” Maria said. “And then you say, ‘wow, this is not what I want for me,’ and then he started to say, ‘I’m going to call your mother, your family, and tell you that I’m going to send you back.’

Quickly Maria found herself trapped in a home with no food, no money, no job, and no internet access.

“One day he arrived home and told me, ‘get all your stuff packed because I’ll take you and your son to a house on Michigan Avenue.’ I said, what? [he said] ‘yeah, I’m going to take you out of here.'”

Maria decided she needed to be an example for her son, whatever the cost.

“So I call my advocate, it was at night, and I explained how he was in front of me and she starts yelling on the phone and said, ‘no, you are not leaving the house, you are not doing anything.’ He heard, but he didn’t say anything,” Maria said. “The next day, he she called me and told me, ‘hey, can you pack your stuff? And find someone to bring you here? I have a place to take you and your son.'”

The Salvation Army put Maria and her son in a hotel for 45 days.

After that, they made a place for them at the shelter.

“My fairytale turned to a nightmare, so I said for me was enough. And they ask me, ‘are you sure you don’t want to try again to see if things work out?’ No, I don’t want it, it was enough for me,” Maria said.

And at that moment, she began rebuilding her life, from scratch.

“You know, they [were] protecting us from someone who wanted to hurt us,” Maria said. “So we stayed there for two years. “

Maria was left with nothing, but the Salvation Army provided her with a place to live, clothes for her and her son, a job, and a car.

“If I’m still alive with my son, it’s just because the Salvation Army [helped] us,” Maria said. “My experience was the best, they help a lot of people. I saw things there. You know, they were helping other immigrants, too.”

And through it all there was one thing that couldn’t be stolen from Maria.

“My faith, you know, God shows us in very little details that he’s with you and I could show because I was desperate. And then I stop and say, ‘no, I know that he’s going to help me.’ So when I stop and look, I start to look around me and I saw God’s presence,” Maria said.

Maria said now she is hopeful for the future.

“We expect better things, you know, and I hope that if people can, to help the Salvation Army because their work is amazing. It surprised me and surprised my family and friends,” Maria said. “When I talk to them about this and they tell me, ‘hey, I didn’t know that they do this kind of work.’ I said yeah it is amazing work.'”