photo of Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA

From Tuscon to the White House

For a while now I’ve been trying to think of a way to really capture the voice of those I work with and work for.  So, instead of me trying to find that voice, I wanted to bring it to you.  I’ve invited Alicia Romero to be a guest blogger this week, and I am hoping to invite additional guest bloggers on a more regular basis, to share their stories with you.  Alicia Romero is a member of the Catholic Charities USA National Consumer Advisory Council that advises our national office on social policy.  Recently, Alicia and her husband, Jose, were invited to the White House and she has shared her story with us this week.

As a Housing Counselor at Catholic Charities in Tucson, Arizona, my days are spent introducing hope into people’s lives by helping them through down payment assistance programs and reverse mortgage counseling.  My husband is taking college courses for credit in the hopes that they will help him get a job.  Together, we feel the reality of the unemployment crisis in America every day.

That’s why standing in the Rose Garden at the White House behind President Barack Obama as he discussed the American Jobs Act, was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

I got a call from the Catholic Charities USA office a couple weeks ago, asking if I would come to Washington to share my family’s story with President Obama.  My knees buckled.  I was speechless.  Once I was sure I could get a couple days off for the opportunity, I gladly accepted.  First I told my husband, who thought I was joking, then we shared the news with our three daughters.  The five of us just stood in the kitchen, shouting from joy and crying.

After many years struggling through the recent tough economy, we are proud to say, we are survivors.  Our home was foreclosed on, but thanks to a transitional housing program at Catholic Community Service Pio Decimo Center in Tucson, we had the time to fix our credit and leave the transitional housing center to make the dream of owning a home once again come true.

We now own our home again, but our dream is not complete.  To make sure our daughters have a brighter future ahead of them, my husband still needs a job.  He has been training and working hard, but the job market is really tough in Arizona.

Our trip to the White House gave me hope.

When we arrived, I expected to be intimidated, but I was shocked by how kind everyone was.  As we entered the White House Garden, my husband, a veteran of the Gulf War, stopped, and proudly saluted.

We were brought into the “Theodore Roosevelt Room” with 25 other guests to meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden prior to the announcement about the American Jobs Act.  The President and Vice President entered and shook all our hands, thanking us all for being there.  My husband asked President Obama if he could hug him.  He did.  I then hugged the Vice President and gave him a kiss on the cheek (AWESOME!!).

Every moment of this day was exciting, and we both felt the responsibility, privilege and honor of representing not only ourselves and our family, but co-workers and friends as well.

The American Jobs Act can help my family.  And I know it can help a lot of the families I work with at the Housing Center, but I’m hoping for even more.  Our country has a lot of work to do to reduce poverty.

Participating in the White House event was heaven sent.  Words can’t express the gratitude my husband and I feel for getting the chance to share our story with President Obama and Vice President Biden.  I’ll just say thank you from the bottom of our hearts, for the momentum of our lives.

From owning our own home once again, to meeting the President, I can definitely say this is the best year ever for my family.

Every family in America has a lot of people to thank for the opportunities they have been given.  I thank Catholic Charities for their generosity.  I thank the Pio Decimo Center in Tucson and Housing Director Jesus Mora for giving me a job opportunity and the privilege to live in the Transitional Housing program, and I thank Executive Director Joyce Walker for selecting me as a Consumer Advisor for CCUSA.  Finally, I thank the President for listening to our story and trying to help.

I would not be writing this fantastic story if it hadn’t been for all of them. They are all a gift from God.