Volunteers play a vital role at Casa San Jose, working alongside staff members, other volunteers and the Latino community to jointly achieve our goals. Through our Volunteer Recognition Program, we highlight the contributions of our volunteer workforce. Each month, we select a Volunteer of the Month from those volunteers currently performing above and beyond the baseline of excellence. At the end of the month, we recognize and highlight the hard work and dedication of one specific volunteer making an impact.
Casa San Jose has become my home away from home. There is a completely different feeling when you walk through the front door, that you have walked into another world where people care. They are in the way Monica cares, to fight for justice and what is right. She is the first actual superhero I’ve ever met. The way Sister Valerie cares about making others think. Think about what is happening, and not glossing over the news as just another travesty, but rather to try to understand and help others as well.
In the way, Jeimy pushes her youth in every way to become all they can be. Her program is really a family that helps young Latin@s come into their own and create change. In the way, Pilar respects every client and treats each with the utmost humanity. The way Veronica gets into the gritty elements of service coordination no matter the situation.
And obviously, all this work comes from the environment Sister Janice creates. She ensures that each and every person who walks in or calls is taken care of no matter what.
Those who are drawn to Casa are by definition giving, caring, passionate, and eager to help. The family at Casa is composed of individuals who give their time and hearts to a cause bigger than any one person.
Thank you for all you have taught me about immigration and myself. I will be in Queens, NY if anyone is around, Y’all have my number!
Ruth Farrell came to Casa San Jose offering her time and talents in service of our mission in whatever way we needed. We soon learned of Ruth’s many gifts and experiences, and perhaps, even more, her generosity and compassion in meeting whatever needs arose in our families. Ruth has supported our Finance Office; she has provided 4 weeks of support for a Latina youth who wanted to be reunited with her family in Mexico but had to wait for government processing (with an ankle bracelet); and she has been involved in many advocacy movements. We are so very grateful to Ruth.- Sr. Valerie
What drew you to Casa San Jose?
I first met Sister Janice when a number of church folk from different denominations began exploring offering sanctuary to any persons who chose to live in a church under the church’s protection and first met Monica at a “Know your Rights” workshop. When I started volunteering at Casa, I was impressed with its dual mission of providing services and strengthening advocacy in Western Pennsylvania. Whenever anyone walks through the door, the staff at Casa greet the sojourner with an openness to a new problem to solve and a new opportunity to understand how our broken immigration policies is impacting yet another family. I believe that groups like Casa who are empowering leadership within our immigrant community will help our city, state and nation create immigration policies that recognize the humanity and value of all that are contributing to our society.
What are some meaningful experiences you have had at CSJ?
I have enjoyed the breadth of experiences that have included completing financial aid applications, meeting a family at the hospital to understand cancer treatments, hosting an “unaccompanied minor” as she awaits deportation, various advocacy marches, etc. I realize that these folks often have nowhere else to turn for assistance and so doing something that is really not that difficult means a lot to them. Contrarily, for me, it may be when there is nothing we can actually do other than affirm their being and story that touches my core most deeply. Every day I go to Casa, I can think of no other place I would rather be.
“I have worked with Sarah at Casa San Jose for over a year. Sarah is passionate about the mission of Casa San Jose. There didn’t seem to be any task that Sarah was not willing to respond to. Her faithfulness and dedication, coupled with her ‘big heart’ leaves us with an invaluable partner in our mission.” -Sr. Valerie
What drew you to Casa San Jose?
In January 2017, my work schedule shifted, and I finally had the time to volunteer at Casa San Jose! That means that the start to my volunteering at CSJ coincided with the start of the current presidency, so it has been an interesting time. I have always been connected in some capacity with Spanish speakers—as an interpreter, a teacher, an advocate, a co-worker, a friend–so I have been aware of some of the issues that folks face. Still, volunteering at Casa has been a big learning experience for me and, since the work done at Casa so directly impacts people’s lives, it has helped me to gain an even deeper understanding of people’s experiences here in Pittsburgh. My favorite times have been interpreting for a woman during a Mother’s Day celebration at her daughter’s grade school and taking a young man to pick up his green card. It has been a real honor to be a small part of these important moments.
“I remember one of the first volunteer days of Roye. Upon overhearing Sr. Janice and I discuss how Casa San Jose might best respond to the sudden influx of inquiries regarding volunteer opportunities in late Fall of 2017, Roye immediately looked up from her laptop and responded with this terrific idea and incredible blessing for Casa San Jose: why not create another layer of volunteers and call them “Amigo/a’s.” From that day on, Roye has continued to bring creativity, ingenuity, factual accounting of research, flexibility, wisdom and generosity to the mission of Casa San Jose through the regular creation and dissemination of newsletters to almost 400 Amigo/a’s” – Sr. Valerie
What is Roye’s role at Casa San Jose?
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.
“I don’t think Jarrod knows how valuable he is to me and to Casa. His ability to assist me in so many projects has been such a blessing. Jarrod is always ready to help even when it is a strange request and I don’t have a lot of time to explain. Jarrod is quick on his feet and very proactive. I could not do my job without you, Jarrod!!! Thank you”-Monica Ruiz
Jarrod is our first volunteer to receive volunteer of the month. We asked him a couple questions about his experiences in volunteering for us.
What drew you to Casa San Jose?
A lot of reasons. I’ve always tried to volunteer in some capacity, whether teaching ESL or planting trees. But the thing that really drew me to CSJ was anger: anger at our ongoing (and seemingly worsening) treatment of people who only want to provide for themselves and their families. I needed to find a more useful way to push back than just being angry every time I read the news or heard about this happening in my community.
What might be some meaningful experiences you have had while working with Casa San Jose?
Translating documents of all sorts for Monica has given me an incredible sense for how many ways the Pittsburgh community effects, and is affected by, the latinx community. Coordinating our rapid response attorneys has felt like a substantive way to fight back against ICE injustice. But the most meaningful experience has been interpreting for our immigration legal clinics and working with our Pittsburgh Dreamers…it’s only when you hear people’s personal stories and struggles that you gain a sense (however limited from my vantage point) for what they’re going through.
Anything else you would like to share about yourself?
I try to tell anyone that will listen about what I’m doing at CSJ. Not because I want to say to people, “Look at me!” But, rather, because I want to say to people, “If you’re angry about this like I am, you can do something about it (and more).”