Born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Giovana Cruz moved to Lorain at the age of 8. She didn`t speak English and attended the bilingual program at Palm Elementary School.
Cruz graduated from Southview High School in 1999 and started attending Lorain County Community College, where she received an associate`s degree in human services. After graduation, she was hired by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lorain County, where she works as a support specialist mentoring volunteers and their matches.
Cruz interviews and trains mentors before matching them with a child. Once a match is made, she supports and encourages both parties. She also maintains contact with the children`s schools and parents.
Cruz also facilitates two afterschool programs in which high school students help the children with homework and socialization, and organizes the annual Christmas party.
"It`s my baby and requires the most attention," Cruz said.
This is her third year coordinating the holiday event, which will be at DeLuca`s Place in the Park. Her main concern is that every child receives a gift.
Children make wish lists and receive one gift worth $25 or less from sponsors, which include DeLuca`s, area churches, Community Service Center of Avon Lake, Grafton Correctional Institution and Kohl`s.
Cruz asks parents what the children need and forms committees of volunteers to go shopping for the children.
"It feels really good to see their faces and to provide something the child needs; at least I know they`ll get one gift instead of an empty tree," she said.
During the party, which has more than 200 participants, the volunteer mentor gives their little brother or sister a gift.
They also celebrate with a lunch.
Cruz is the daughter of Angelina Figueroa and Manuel Cruz. She is continuing her studies in social work at Lorain County Community College and will graduate with a bachelor`s degree in May, the same month she will marry Jonathan Kallas.
"Praise Of Praise" will be Jan. 13 at Sacred Heart Chapel on Pearl Avenue, where pastors from different churches will sing. The chapel`s liturgical dance group, led by Willie Davila, also will participate.
Yolanda Moreno-Kash, owner of Mickey`s El Patio, and her husband, Mickey, president of Mexican Inc. on 30th Street and Grove Avenue, will provide food for customers at their Christmas party starting at 9 p.m. Dec. 22.
They will hold a dance with no charge to customers. Puerto Rican caroling will take place for an hour. For information, call (440) 277-0232.
Congratulations to Santos Leibas and Kristy Velez for being elected co-presidents of Los Unidos, a Latino club at Lorain County Community College.
BIRTHDAYS: Dec. 11, Fred Lozano, Jonathan Visalden, Gloria Hernandez; Dec.22, Marie Leibas; Dec. 25, Julia Jacobs
To submit news for this column contact Awilda Ramirez at The Chronicle-Telegram, 225 East Ave., Elyria, OH 44035 or e-mail email@example.com.