CINCINNATI — Walk the hallways of Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio, and you’ll likely see Sandy Rodriguez focused on her computer.
During these moments, she's actually saving children's lives.
"A lot of people come here without adults or parents. They come by themselves," said Rodriguez.
Having operated through a pandemic for more than a year, Catholic Charities will hold a fundraiser next week to make sure Rodriguez can keep doing her work.
As a family reunification case manager in Cincinnati, one of her most recent success stories is about a teenage boy who said he was enduring abuse at the hands of his mother in Guatemala.
WCPO is not sharing his name to preserve his privacy.
“She would get whips and whip him with it on the back,” said Rodriguez.
She said the boy had no family to turn to for help there. So he fled to the U.S. where he had an uncle in Cincinnati. It was a 15-day trip in a car with strangers, alone.
Once he made it to the border, immigration services sent him to Rodriguez.
"He was very, very shy. He didn't even make eye contact with me when he arrived. He would look at the floor," said Rodriguez.
That has now changed. He is safe with his uncle, she said, and has gone from a third-grade education to graduating high school next month.
"He is very proud because he said that if I wasn't there to motivate him and talk to him every week and visit him when I could, he probably wouldn't be able to graduate this year," said Rodriguez.
Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio and its Su Casa Hispanic Center helps approximately 5,000 immigrants a year with legal aid, food, doctor visits and rental assistance.
“It’s like the poorest of the poor, and it's difficult for them to access benefits,” said Su Casa Hispanic Center director Giovanna Alvarez.
She said the pandemic has forced them to do even more, like provide cleaning supplies, protective gear, computers for students in virtual school. She said they also are helping more people who lost jobs.
Now the group itself needs financial help to keep going.
"We are really thankful to all the people that step up to support us to give us the strength to keep on going," said Alvarez.
Those who would like to help can join the group’s virtual Gala May 6 at 7:00 pm. Register here.