Our Staff

Casa San Jose is primarily run by over 200 volunteers who provide everything from reporting, correspondence, family support, youth programming, and clerical assistance. A small team of staff provides service coordination, community support, and administrative tasks.

You can reach all staff at 412-343-3111.

Staff Listing


Executive Director                       

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Monica Ruiz

Monica Ruiz is the Executive Director at Casa San José. Monica has been working with the Latino community for over 15 years. She started at Casa San José as the Service Coordinator for ISAC (Immigrant Services and Connections). Previously, Monica worked for Catholic Charities as a Chemical Dependency/Mental Health Case Manager with Latino youth. Prior to that, she worked as an Employment and Training Case Manager.

Monica has also been a powerful advocate for Latinos on legal, housing, development, and educational issues. She fights for those facing deportation proceedings and launches projects to assist women, youth and high school students. In addition, she partners with political, labor, religious, and law enforcement leadership to make Pittsburgh stronger and more welcoming to all.  Monica earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in Psychology, and a Master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on Community Organizing and Social Action. She has also been part of the Neighborworks Leadership Collaboratory and received training in Community Engagement and Community and Neighborhood Revitalization.

Director of Civic Engagement

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Sr. Janica Vanderneck

Sister Janice is the Founding Director of Casa San José, which provides critical social services to and organizes Latino community members to promote integration, acceptance, and political change in support of immigrant communities. Sister Janice is a Catholic religious sister with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, a Catholic congregation of vowed women who are dedicated to loving and serving God and neighbor rooted in prayer, community living, and the Gospel. Sister Janice has worked  in Latin America, educating and organizing community members to think critically about power structures, oppression and political engagement. In the U.S., Sister Janice worked for decades as a religion teacher and principal at Catholic elementary schools in the Pittsburgh region. She is a member of the Advisory Council on Immigrants and Internationals for the Department of Human Services of Allegheny County, she collaborates with the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement activities, she was part of the Latino Needs Assessment Process in Allegheny County, and she is a member of the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition as well as The City of Pittsburgh’s Welcoming Committee Steering Committee.

Sister Janice has received numerous awards for her extraordinary service.  Among those are: the Community Service Award in 2014 and 2017 from the Turkish Cultural Center of Pittsburgh, 2014 Dignity & Respect Champion given by the Greater Pittsburgh Dignity & Respect Campaign Council, United Way’s 2016 Be There Award for supporting the region’s children, the 2016 El Sol Award from the Hispanic Attorneys Committee of the Allegheny Bar Association, the Michael McGrady Award for Service at the Art Rooney Awards Dinner in 2017, and the OHTLI Award for 2017 given by the Secretariat of the Mexican Government for service to the Mexican community in the US.


Service Coordinators & Bilingual Navigators:

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Pilar Caballero

Originally from Panama, Pilar Caballero holds a degree in Finance and Bank Administration from the University of Santa María La Antigua in Panama City, Panama.  Prior to living in Pittsburgh, Pilar lived in Texas near the Mexican border where she owned a physical therapy clinic that provided rehabilitation services.  It was here, while advocating for safe working environment for employees, that she had a first glimpse of Latino working conditions at the maquiladoras in Mexico, as well as in manufacturing companies like Alcoa and SAS.  Pilar worked for a few years in Patient Access and also as a Spanish-English interpreter at St. Clair Hospital, where she continued her experience in the medical field.  She had just started volunteering her services at Casa San José when she was offered a position as a Service Coordinator in 2017. She also works as a Spanish-English interpreter for PLAN (Pittsburgh Language Access Network) and as a Spanish linguist for Metlang.  Pilar is a strong believer that knowledge of the English language lays the foundation for better communication and integration for Latinos into the Pittsburgh community.

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Veronica Jenkins

Verónica Jenkins started with Casa San José as a volunteer in 2016 when she relocated to Pittsburgh from the Philadelphia area. With a degree in Psychology from the University of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, she brings great insight and skill resolving the daily emotional challenges for our families. Verónica joined our staff as an ISAC Services Coordinator for our immigrant families, with the primary role of providing referrals and coordination to social service opportunities that are imperative for long-term self-sufficiency. She developed a unique insight in working with high need communities in the West Chester and Kennett Square communities of Pennsylvania, managing public charter school operations and community service organizations. Verónica has also managed and developed food service programs developed a local gardening program, and has an expertise in volunteer management. Verónica’s years of experience in social services and family-based education enhance our organization with innovative solutions, personal insights, creative perspectives and high level of culturally sensitivity for our immigrant families.


Volunteer Coordinator  

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Sr. Valerie Zottola

Sister Valerie Zottola is our Volunteer Coordinator at Casa San José. Professionally, the majority of her adult life has been devoted to teaching and administering in elementary, high school and junior college education. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Education; a Master’s degree in Counselor Education; a Post Graduate Certificate in Christian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction, along with numerous graduate credits in theology. She served 14 years as Principal of Holy Rosary Elementary School, and helped to create the Crossroads Foundation which supports impoverished elementary age students in their Catholic high school education.  As a Sister of St. Joseph, she is dedicated to serving those most in need, which is what drew her to Casa San José. Casa San José is doing an incredible work that few if any in this area are addressing—supporting undocumented Latino immigrants. The love that the staff have for those whom they serve became clear to her when she first visited Casa San José—which is why she asked the leadership of the Congregation of St. Joseph to let her offer her services there.

Youth Community Outreach Coordinator 

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Jeimy Ibarra

Jeimy Ibarra was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and has been living in Pittsburgh for 18 years. She currently is the Youth Community Outreach Coordinator at Casa San José. Jeimy is a recent grad from Carlow University where she studied psychology and criminal justice obtaining two Bachelor’s degrees. Jeimy started at Casa San José in 2015 as a Compass AmeriCorps volunteer and ran an afterschool program at Beechwood Elementary for grades K-2.  At this time, she noticed the lack of services for Latino youth, and she herself grew up seeing how hard it was to maintain her own culture in the U.S.  So Jeimy created and led Puentes Hacia el Futuro, a Saturday program for youth ages 7-14, to allow students to have a safe space while building community. In 2017, Jeimy created a second program, Jóvenes con Propósito, for high-school students, where she works to guide youth activists to become leaders in their communities and provide them with peer-based training that promotes youth power and community organizing.Jeimy was recently recruited by the Jewish Family & Community Services to direct a Saturday Program for Latino teens called SOY (Supporting our Youth).

Jeimy’s dedication to Latino youth has led to numerous awards. Café con Leche recognized Jeimy with the Fuerza award for making an impact in the Pittsburgh Latino Community. She received Catherine Graham Servant Leader Award from Carlow University for continuing the legacy of the Mercy Sisters on and off campus. And Jeimy was awarded the United Way’s “Be There Awards,” an award that recognizes adults going above and beyond to inspire, motivate, and be there for their students every day. Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition awarded Jeimy the Youth Leader Award, for have a record of leadership in advocacy/activist work to advance the rights of low-income immigrants and/or refugees in Pennsylvania have a long-standing commitment to protect and promote the rights of vulnerable immigrant individuals/communities in Pennsylvania. Jeimy recently was awarded the 30 under 30 Award by the Pittsburgh Business Times for her hard work at Casa San Jose.

Emergency Response Organizer

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Laura Perkins

Laura Perkins is Casa San Jose’s Emergency Response Organizer. In addition to immediately responding to ICE detentions and their consequences, she accompanies people to ICE check-ins, coordinates Casa San Jose’s PA is Ready! community engagement, and generally responds to many of our urgent organizing needs. Laura came to Casa San Jose after nonprofit human rights work in Honduras and Nicaragua, throughout two political crises. Before that, she ran an ESL program in Washington, DC, where she obtained her B.A. in International Relations and interned at various nonprofits. Laura is a native of the mighty hills of Pittsburgh, and she feels a personal obligation to put her international crisis experience to work by actively challenging the status quo and responding to the injustices her neighbors suffer.

Community Organizer

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Ibania Rivas

Ibania Rivas is a native of El Salvador, who has devoted 20 years to non-profit work supporting people in need. She grew up on a coffee farm, and ultimately graduated from the University of El Salvador with a degree in Economics. She began helping those living in conflict-affected zones of the civil war, especially vulnerable youth, at-risk farmers and families. She spent 16 years working on development projects at Catholic Relief Services in El Salvador and became a program manager, before coming to Pittsburgh last year. In a recent interview she said, “I believe everyone needs compassion, but beyond that we all need motivation, new ideas, space to learn and grow and develop as human beings who can contribute to making our society better.” We are so glad to have Ibania on the Casa San José team!

Director of Youth Programs

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Albert Garcia

Albert Garcia is doing a service year for Change a Heart Franciscan Volunteer Program. This program is a 11-month service that focuses on service and experience that empowers young adults to live simply in community while serving a vulnerable population. Change a Heart follows four major principles which are spirituality, social justice, simple lifestyle, and community. Albert is from the Bronx located in New York. His family came from Dominican Republic and currently live in New York. As a volunteer, he is looking to cooperate and empower Latino communities into becoming a strong group of individuals that advocate for each other and their environment. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Health Science from SUNY Buffalo State. He wants to pursue a Master’s in Public Health. Albert worked as a Resident Assistant at his university for a year and was an Educational Opportunity Program assistant to mentor students towards their classes and career.

Assistant Volunteer Coordinator

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Roye Werner

Roye Werner is the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, assisting Sister Valerie in recruiting, training, and processing volunteers and supporters, and is a volunteer herself.  She also writes various communications for Casa San José including a bi-weekly email newsletter.  She came from a 40-year career as a public-services librarian, primarily at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, and lived for several years in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Her first professional job was as the Hispanic Services Librarian at Lawrence Public Library in 1977. She has volunteered for numerous political campaigns and service organizations and has a BA in literature from Mt. Holyoke College and a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin.  She chose to work with Casa San José because of its passion, vitality, and effectiveness, because Latino and other immigrants are being brutally victimized, because she loves Latin American culture, and because she came from immigrants herself, as did so many Americans.


2018-2019 Interns

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Anna Clark

Anna is a Master’s of Social Work student at the University of Pittsburgh, with a focus in community organizing and social action. She will graduate in April 2019 and plans to stay in Pittsburgh doing community work after graduation. Anna moved to Pittsburgh in 2015 after graduating with a B.S. in Sociology and a minor in Spanish from Virginia Tech, and began working for a small nonprofit doing homeless outreach throughout the city of Pittsburgh. While she has always been passionate about social justice and caring for others, she really experienced the power of community when building relationships with women living in homeless camps and shelters. She saw that change is possible when people truly care about one another and make efforts to support one another. Anna wanted to improve her Spanish skills while working at an organization that is meaningfully engaged in community, which led her to Casa San José for her internship. She believes that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect and that all humans should have access to basic human rights, no matter where they are from or what they look like.

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Kelcey Bailey

Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, Kelcey moved to Pittsburgh in 2016, initially to start her studies at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for a Masters in Divinity. With a background in International politics, government relations, and social justice advocacy, Kelceyhad decided in 2015 to work overseas for International Justice Mission, an NGO working to stop various forms of oppression that exploit poor families and subject them to violence. Recognizing the intersection of her faith and social justice, her recent seminary studies led her to work in the Chaplains Office of Allegheny County Jail, where she realized the need and her interest in pursuing a Masters of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh as well. Kelcey is particularly passionate about offering hospitality to immigrant and refugee communities, and advocating for the rights and humanity of all peoples in the United States.

Kelcey comes to Casa San Jose as an intern from the University of Pittsburgh. She hopes to continue to grow in her awareness of the reality and needs of latino communities, and to gain skills for community organizing, social action, particularly as it relates to immigration policy, detention centers, and resources. She is seeking continuous ways to offer hospitality and sanctuary to immigrant brothers and sisters in the greater Pittsburgh area.