Casa San Jose has a 19 member staff, who along with two volunteers provide service coordination, community support, and administrative tasks. We also have the support of 110 active volunteers and numerous interns who provide everything from reporting, correspondence, family support, youth programming, and clerical assistance.
You can reach all staff by calling 412-343-3111 or by clicking on an individual name to email the person.
Monica Ruiz-Caraballo is the Executive Director at Casa San José. Mónica has been working with Casa since 2014 when she started as an intern, then moved to service coordinator and then community organizer. Prior to that, she worked for Catholic Charities as a case manager. She was born in Cleveland Ohio and has Latino roots from Guatemala and Puerto Rico, where her mom and her dad are originally from. Mónica holds a master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on Community Organizing and Social Action. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in Psychology.
Mónica is 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, children and youth. In addition, she partners with political, labor, religious, and law enforcement leadership to make Pittsburgh stronger and more welcoming to all.
Mónica recently received the 2019 Women of Influence Award, Pittsburgh Business Times and the 2019 César Chávez Community Heroes Award. She was also awarded with the 2018 New Person of the Year, from Thomas Merton Center and the 2018 Rising Star, from the University of Pittsburgh by the School of Social Work. She is currently a fellow of Lead Now Pittsburgh, a transformational leadership program for the civic sector.
Director of Civic Engagement
Sister Janice is the Founding Director of Casa San José. She is a Catholic religious sister with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, and she 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.
Sister Janice is a member of the Advisory Council on Immigrants and Internationals for the Department of Human Services of Allegheny County, and she is currently a member of the Welcoming Pittsburgh Steering Committee.
Sister Janice has received numerous awards for her extraordinary service. They include: the Michael McGrady Award for Service at the Art Rooney Awards Dinner in 2017, the OHTLI Award for 2017 given by the Secretariat of the Mexican Government for service to the Mexican community in the US, and the 2016 El Sol Award from the Hispanic Attorneys Committee of the Allegheny Bar Association.
Finance and Development Director
Sister Karen Stoila is the Director of Finance and Development at Casa San José. Her responsibilities include setting up and using Quickbooks online and preparing Casa for its first audit. She will manage all employee-related concerns.
Sister Karen taught every level of high school math and science for 19 years at St. Joseph High School in Natrona, PA, Quigley High School in Baden, PA, and St. Pius V High School in Bronx, NY. She then worked with Sister Janice in Miami, Florida at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary School as the development director and business administrator. In 1996, Sister Karen was called back to the Motherhouse to serve in the Development Office and in 1999 was appointed Director of Development for the Sisters of St. Joseph, a position she held until 2017.
Sister Karen is looking forward to sharing her gifts and talents with Casa San José, to assist its wonderful staff to carry out their mission of providing resources and services for Latino immigrants in Pittsburgh and counties beyond. Sister Karen and Sister Janice are longtime friends, having entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on the same day 52 years ago, and having shared many joys and sorrows in life. After a happy career in teaching and many wonderful years building up resources to care for the life and mission of the Sisters, especially the retired Sisters, Sister Karen is following God’s call to now serve at Casa San José.
Operations and Finance Manager
Sebastian Garetto is our newly appointed Operations and Financial Manager. Sebastian is alumni of Community College of Allegheny County with an AS in Sciences focused on Psychology/Sociology and Information Technology. He is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society and the Psi Beta National Honor Society in Psychology. His areas of expertise are system migration, implementation and administration.
In his role, Sebastian is responsible for overseeing the functions by department, identifying current workflows and estimating resources for implementing models for efficiency. The administration of human resources also conforms with his obligations. This position also requires the sharing of financial tasks with the Director of Development and Finances.
Sebastian is from Argentina, having moved to Pittsburgh in 2002. He volunteered at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh (Now PGH Equality Center) and has helped with the implementation of the library system at the Jim Fischerkeller Library. He provided assistance to LGBTQ elderly with IT, financial organization, file organization and emergency planning, as well as providing clerical assistance to physicians and working for Amazon in their Amazon Prime Now program.
Sebastian is a passionate advocate for Human Rights, diversity in the workplace, public education, and global equality. He is humbled and honored to be part of Casa San Jose family, and to have the opportunity to showcase his skills and experience for the benefit of the Latin community at large.
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. She believes that 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 has 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.
Assistant Volunteer Coordinator
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, and because she believes Latino and other immigrants are being brutally victimized, also, because she loves Latin American culture, and because she came from immigrants herself, as did so many Americans.
Teresa Parra was born and raised in South Los Angeles, CA. She is first generation Mexican-American. Her parents own a small Latino grocery store since 1993. The customers are mostly Spanish speakers and there she watched her parents make that business into a community. It is the place where people go when they want groceries, want to transfer money to their home countries, need legal resources, or simply want to share a laugh with her parents.
She worked as a veterinary assistant for 4 years, including a position with the Spay Neuter Project of Los Angeles, the largest non-profit veterinary clinic in the area. There she helped the outreach team promote low cost vaccine and spay/neuter clinics to the community. Before her big move, she was the assistant manager for the spcaLA Adoption Center. There she helped provide animals into their forever homes and building bonds with the community.
She moved to Pittsburgh in January 2021 with her husband, 2 dogs and 2 cats. She is looking forward to exploring her new city.
Emergency Case Worker
Elia Paris, is our newly appointed Emergency Case Worker. Elia joined Casa San Jose in November 2019 as a volunteer and then became a staff member in March 2020. She was attracted to Casa by its mission and the services it provides to the Hispanic Community. As a person who was raised in the Dominican Republic, supporting the Latin community in her place of residency was a natural thing for her to explore. The success of Casa San Jose, driven by its committed staff, immediately caught her attention and interest when she moved to Pittsburgh in June 2019. It then became clear for her that she should be part of this organization to improve the lives of the Latin community.
Throughout her adult life, Elia worked in social works in a number of countries in Europe, the Middle east and North America. Recently, she was the vice president of the parish committee of the Saint Nicholas Church, in Wilkes Barre, PA and a very active member of the Hispanic community of Saint Nicholas.
Rooted in her multicultural background, she wants to continue to meet people from all over the world and learn from their rich cultures and traditions. Her most immediate goal is to extend her support to those who have been and continue to be less fortunate. Her long term goal is to contribute to establishing a more just society where harmony and prosperity for all living in this blessed country.
Elia holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Public Relations from the George Mason University.
“As we come together in solidarity to help those in greater need and to fight the effects of the pandemic, the work we do at Casa San Jose is even more critical. I am honored to be part of the organization’s mission and efforts in support of our community members” – Says Elia.
Immigrant Services And Connections (ISAC) Service Coordinator
Grace McHale is our newly appointed ISAC Service Coordinator. A Pittsburgh native, in 2018 she earned her bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Spanish, as well as certificates in Latin American Studies and Global studies, from the University of Pittsburgh. During her time at Pitt, she was heavily involved in community work, including volunteering at a local elementary school as an after-school program worker. Grace also was a researcher and School Visit Coordinator at Pitt’s Center for Latin American Studies. Upon graduation, Grace began working at Holy Family Institute in the Unaccompanied Children Program, with children primarily from Central America. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Grace was in Brazil teaching university-level English and sharpening her Portuguese skills through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program. Then in early 2020, Grace returned to Pittsburgh and Holy Family Institute with unaccompanied children, working there for a total of two years before joining the team at Casa.
Grace one day hopes to travel again and live in another country, but for now is focused on strengthening her roots in her community here in Pittsburgh. Grace is honored to join the team at Casa San Jose as part of this work, to use her previous experience to work to bridge the cultural divide between Latinx immigrants and service providers to ensure equitable access to social services in our county.
Immigrant Services And Connections (ISAC) Bilingual Navigator
Monique Herrera, from Acapulco, Mexico, is our newly appointed Casa San Jose’s Bilingual Navigator. Prior to working at Casa San Jose, Monique worked at the Holy Family Institute with unaccompanied minors for two and half years.
Monique is a current Dreamer who migrated along with her mother and brother to the U.S. when she was 4 years old. As she grew up, she saw her family needing help with the language barrier. As a result, she always helped her parents with translating. That is where her passion comes in for her helping the Latinx community and her position as a Bilingual Navigator at Casa San Jose.
Emergency Response Organizer
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.
Mental Health and Bond Fund Coordinator
Jannette Castro González is from Puerto Rico and is the mother of two and the grandmother of three grandchildren. In 1987 she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, with a specialization in Investigation from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. During her study period, she participated in the Pro-Bono program (Voluntary Legal Services of the Bar Association) conducting investigations and evaluations of minors to assist the defense in court. In addition, she obtained her master’s degree in Family and Child Counseling from the Cambridge College Campus of Puerto Rico. After graduating, she began working at the Addiction Mental Health Services Administration (ASSMCA). Working in different treatment programs both Residential and Outpatient.
In 2002, she started a new job in the Puerto Rican Department of Justice, in the Victims and Witnesses Assistance program until 2019. During that period she was a volunteer for La Tierra Prometida, a non-profit organization, whose purpose was to assist the homeless population in developing job skills, job placement, housing and counseling. In mid-2019, for family reasons, she decided to come to Pennsylvania and began working in the non-profit sector. All organizations she worked into focused on early childhood education. Since she arrived to this state, people told her about Casa San José and the excellent work they did with the Latino residents. She is very honored to be a part of this organization. From a very young age, she was always inclined to help others, and contribute so that they can have a better quality of life.
Deputy Director of Programs and Community Engagement
Verónica Lozada is Casa San Jose’s Deputy Director of Programs and Community Engagement. Verónica 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 she has 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 cultural sensitivity for our immigrant families.
Benjamin Gutschow is our Community Organizer on Social and Civic Engagement. Originally born in Guatemala, Ben came to the U.S. as a child through adoption, and now lives in Pittsburgh. He is a high school senior who has spent the last few years as a youth-activist focused on environmental, social, and racial injustice.
Founding the first Latinx Student Union at his school, Ben is dedicated to spreading awareness about the struggles and strengths within the Latino community. He travelled with fellow youth members of Casa to speak at the Racial Justice Summit, and even to Washington D.C. to advocate for human rights to members of the United Nation.
He has organized various strikes and protests around Pittsburgh, like the Global Climate Strike in September of 2019, and has spoken at many events against discrimination and injustice. He has worked with Casa throughout his time in high school, and is excited to join the staff.
William Reeves is our newly appointed Community Organizer on Social and Civic Engagement. He was born in Thornwood, New York and will be graduating from Duquesne University with a double major in Political Science and Spanish and a minor in History. He has Hawaiian and Cuban decent. His Cuban mother came to New York when his family left in 1961. He has always been grateful that the United States was so welcoming with open arms to his family. Therefore, he has searched for an opportunity to give back and help families who were in the same position as his family when they first arrived. He believes this country is made up of immigrants and that each immigrant should have an opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
He worked as a legislative intern for the County legislator, Margaret Cunzio, on the Westchester County Board of Legislators in the summer of 2019. In addition, he served as an intern for the Westchester County Department of Corrections in 2017. He will use both of his experiences to provide unique insight and devise solutions that can help his work with the Latino community in Pittsburgh. His goal is to show Allegheny county the strife the Latino community faces and how they can become an active part in aiding a community that is in much need of our help. In addition, good past times of his are exercising and learning about Latin American History.
Youth Service Director
Amanda Welby is our Director of Youth Services. She taught for several years in South America and California. She led teen dating violence prevention trainings with United Way of SWPA. Inspired by the potential of the youth from PEP (Prison Education Project), Amanda decided to pursue a master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on Community Organizing and Social Action.
Amanda loves learning about and celebrating cultures. She had the privilege of living in South America for 6 years and calling Uruguay a second home. With Uruguayan youth, they made a radio program and wrote and performed a play.
Youth Community Outreach Coordinator
José María Ochoa is our Youth Program Coordinator. He was born in Georgia, moved to Mexico at a very young age, was raised there for most of his life, and then came back to the U.S. 6 years ago. Understanding the current situation of our people, he started to get involved with the Latino community in Pittsburgh last year though music, culture and protesting. He then became involved in a musical education program with youth from different oppressed backgrounds, attended a course about youth empowerment and organization from the “SOUL” school of movement and unity.
At Casa, Jose runs the Summer Camps for the East Liberty and Beechview area. He also coordinates our programs for children Bridges to the Future – “Puentes Hacía el Futuro”, and “Jóvenes con Propósito” for the youths at Brashear High School where he was volunteering before. Jose has a great sense of humor which keeps everyone at Casa in a happy frame of mind. His gentle spirit is good for the children and youth, as well as his desire to help them balance their Latino heritage with the American culture. Jose hopes to pursue a degree in Psychology in the future.
Andrea Padilla is our newly appointed Communications Specialist. She was born in Quito, Ecuador and she holds a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Ohio University. Andrea has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. Before joining Casa San Jose, Andrea gained experience in Communications by working as an intern for the Ecuador-Mexico Chamber of Commerce.
Driven by her passion to support marginalized communities, she worked as a Program Assistant at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) in Quito, which gave her professional experience in the field of migration and humanitarianism. Andrea is part of a family of 5 members and enjoys helping others with what she has learned throughout the years. She is very excited to join Casa San Jose and meet the amazing Latinx community living in Pittsburgh.
East Liberty Office Coordinator
Ruth Farrell currently volunteers with Casa San José. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, she was the Director of the Presbyterian Hunger Program for the national office of the Presbyterian Church, the USA in its work to complement congregational work to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes globally and locally.
Ruth worked internationally in Peru (10 years) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4 years) with churches and non-profits organizations to address causes of poverty in communities through successful campaigns and sustainable projects. She also directed a micro-enterprise program through the Jewish Family and Vocational Service in Louisville, Kentucky and worked in public policy for Senator Richard G. Lugar in Washington D.C. She has an MBA in International Finance from George Washington University. Ruth and her husband Hunter have 3 adult children. Ruth is an avid soccer fan and hiker and she and her family lived in a shared house for 10 years as part of a commitment to intentional communal living.
Ambridge Office Coordinator
Milena Narkevic is the recently-appointed coordinator for Casa San José’s new office located at Good Samaritan Parish in Ambridge, Beaver County. Milena was born and raised in Cuba, and has lived overseas in Central and South America, and Africa. She is the mother of four adult children, and brings to Casa San José a vibrant personality, a commitment to service, and a straightforward approach to getting things done.
She holds a bachelors degree in planning, and has worked as a development program planner in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and as a volunteer in social and economic development projects in Bolivia, El Salvador, and Mozambique. Milena also spent six years as a Spanish instructor at St. James School in Sewickley, and performed substitute teaching for children attending kindergarten through high school. Over the years, Milena has also worked as a private tutor of the Spanish language, and speaks conversational Portuguese as well.
Her breadth of experience throughout Latin America and the Caribbean uniquely positions her to understand the historic, social, and cultural contexts of many Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. Her knowledge of the functioning of schools and school districts make her a powerful advocate for children, especially English-learners. The fact that she herself was once an English language learner along with her two oldest children affords her a deep understanding of many of the primary assimilation issues facing refugee and immigrant families.