July 28, 2006

A great Christmas gift, in the middle of Summer

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Salvador and Angela Ruiz have been living in National City for the past 66 years.

With their hard work, they were able to buy their house almost 50 years ago.

Salvador was the handyman of the house. If there was something that needed repairing, he would do it.

But as they got older, their house also began to experience the passing of time.

Salvador, who’s now 87, had a work accident and he had to retired in 1986 due to the pain in his back. Angela, who’s 89, used to work as a cook in a restaurant, but she’s also retired a long time ago.

The Ruiz family.

With no money and with Salvador no longer being able to do the handy work he used to do, the Ruiz home had fallen to disrepair.

Thanks to the National City Christmas in July program and volunteers from Paradise Valley Hospital, Salvador and Angela once again have a home they can feel proud of.

Theirs was one of 11 renovated houses that will be unveiled on Saturday, July 29th.

“I’m so happy that so many people are helping us out,” said Salvador, who was born in Michoacan.

During their first two weekends of work, volunteers rebuilt their bathroom and kitchen, replaced all the flooring inside the house, repaired electrical, added ceiling fans, installed new blinds, installed new security doors, cleaned up the yard, repaired the yard fence, and painted the interior of the house.

“I’m so grateful for what they’ve done,” Angela said. “I don’t know how to thank them enough.”

Angie Perez, daughter of Salvador and Angela, said that her parents, who live by themselves, will have a better quality of life.

“It was really hard for my parents to live in those conditions. They couldn’t even shower. It was falling apart. I thank the Lord for the help,” Perez said.

National City Christmas in July is a volunteer organization working in partnership with the community to rehabilitate housing; particularly for homeowners who are low-income elderly, disabled or families with children.

“This gift we give to the community blesses those who participate as volunteers as much as it blesses the families whose homes are renovated,” said Paradise Valley Hospital chaplain Elias Molina. “The project offers a great sense of purpose and accomplishment.”

This month, Christmas in July was able to renovate 11 homes, totaling 23 so far in 2006, said Director Cecilia Garcia-Kirk. About half of the total is owned by Latino families, she said.

The organization’s mission statement is “to repair, rehabilitate and modify homes in National City for low-income homeowners who are elderly, disabled and families with children, so they can continue to live with dignity, independently and safely,” Garcia-Kirk said.

“I wish there could be one [Christmas in July] in every city,” she said.

Garcia-Kirk said that the Christmas in July Board of Directors selects the families that will receive the home renovations based on the family’s situation.

All the families selected, can’t afford to do the repairs themselves, she said.

The National City organization was established in 1991 and has held an annual event in July for the last 13 years. Approximately 500 to 700 volunteers each year have repaired over 198 homes and 44 nonprofit facilities.

But last May it took a major blow, when the Christmas in July facilities were robbed.

Garcia-Kirk said that they lost most of their tools and construction equipment.

“This has affected us, because we’re not doing the 20 homes we usually do, we’re only doing 11 this time,” she said.

But that hasn’t stopped this group of volunteers. She said that later this year Christmas in July will begin the construction of a new building that will house the offices and the warehouse for storage of all the equipment.

The organization is always looking for donations and volunteers.

“Every penny goes back to the community,” Garcia-Kirk said.

Repairing houses it’s not all Christmas in July does. In November, they hand out turkeys to low-income families. In December, they give out Christmas dinners and toys.

“We change people’s lives. That’s what we do,” Garcia-Kirk said.

For more information about National City Christmas in July, call (619) 477-5532. Or visit www.christmas-in-july.org.

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