At Home With: Monica Ruiz | Community Profile | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

At Home With: Monica Ruiz

CP's daily check-in with Pittsburghers during the coronavirus pandemic

Everybody is dealing with the COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions in different ways. While there's no single right way to cope — social distancing and staying TF home aside — staying connected with friends, family, and neighbors is a good place to start. You can contact your loved ones on your own, but you might also be curious how your favorite strangers in Pittsburgh are coping, so CP is reaching out once a day to beloved city icons to see how they're doing.

Today, it's Monica Ruiz, executive director of nonprofit Casa San Jose.

What is your day-to-day routine like now? For instance, it's around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31. How did you spend your morning? What happens this afternoon?
I wake up at 8, make breakfast for my family, and by 9 a.m., we are all in front of a computer working or doing school work. I am charged with helping a 4th grader, a 6th grader, and a 10th grader. I am NOT a teacher; God bless teachers and God bless these kids because I don't remember learning half of what I am attempting to teach them.

That runs till about noon or close to it, today it was more like 3 p.m. when I am juggling back to back Zoom calls and making lunch for my three hungry growing boys. By that time, the kids are going stir crazy and they either go outside or start playing in the house, both involve running and making lots of noise. It's closer to 5 p.m. now and I was lucky enough to end my 4 p.m. call early so I can type this, and I still have two more meetings tonight.

I will prepare dinner while I am on my 6 p.m. call and then at 8, when it's all over, I will get to actually talk to my kids and my husband for about an hour before it's time to put them to bed and start all over again tomorrow. This has been my life for over three weeks now.

How is Casa San Jose operating these days?
Casa is busier than ever. We are all WORKING from home, I never knew working from home really meant WORKING from home. We are doing everything we normally do, plus so much more. Running a nonprofit from my living room is not ideal, but somehow we are making it work. If people need things, they just call our main number which is forwarded to a cellphone that our front desk administrator answers and then gives the message to the appropriate staff member that then returns the call.

We have a full-blown food distribution system that feeds about 500 meals a week. We are helping people file for unemployment, working with landlords, helping people get out of ICE detention, providing mental health resources, working with our youth, helping families understand what is going on, providing accurate and up to date information, killing it on social media, and finding funding to help our community.

What is your favorite food to eat at the moment?
This is hard, I love to eat ... and cook ... but my favorite snack right now is cucumbers with lime juice.

What piece of art/film/book/TV/music is bringing you comfort/inspiration at this time?
I honestly don't have time for any of these things right now. The pictures of the families we serve receiving food is what keeps me motivated.

What are you most excited to do when the restrictions and quarantines are lifted?
Visit my family!!!!!!!

What's something you've witnessed since the restrictions started that has resonated with you?
People are actually nicer, they are seeing that it's everyone that is being affected and there is a lot less of us vs. them mentality. People want to work together to make things better. Also, that people don't take this seriously and it's annoying that people think this is a joke.

What's another organization or charity that you recommend giving to or supporting during this time?
Besides Casa????? Greater PGH Restaurant Workers Emergency Fund, a lot of our community members are employed by the Restaurant business and are going to need financial assistance because they don't qualify for unemployment or the relief from the government.

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