Like many clients, when Evangelina Ruiz turned to MEND, she was at a low point. And like many of those other people, MEND gave her a second chance. The Mexicali native, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, lost her manufacturing job. “I was very discouraged with life at that point,” says the now 72-year-old mother of four adult children. “I started working at a very young age but then I was laid off.”
It was back in 2014 that Ruiz’s sister suggested that she enroll in a MEND computer class. She told her it was time for Ruiz to try something new. It turned out to be more than just a career move. It was life-changing. “I had lost my job and I was diagnosed with cancer,” says Ruiz. “But I enrolled in computer lab courses and discovered my love for learning.”
Once in the class, Ruiz’s teacher encouraged her to take an English as a Second Language course (ESL) course. Like the classes she had taken earlier at MEND, Ruiz says it was a great motivator. “When I first came to MEND I was really frustrated with my job loss. My husband had suffered from a stroke and lost his business. It was a great financial loss for my family.” Without work, and being ill, Ruiz says she was “heartbroken.” But MEND was there to help, even in ways she couldn’t have imagined. “I didn’t go to therapy but MEND became the therapy I needed,” she says.
Ruiz has used many of the services at MEND’s Education and Training Center. Today, she is in the group’s adult education program. She also recently signed up for MEND’s Grow Together Project. “I want to learn to grow my own food,” says Ruiz. “I received my garden box over the weekend.”
The growing, however, doesn’t end with a garden box. Learning is now a way of life for Ruiz. “I know it will be a lot of work,” she says. “But it’s exciting for me. I have a 10-year-old granddaughter and I want to teach her what I’m learning.”
The biggest change goes beyond MEND’s computer and educational classes, says Ruiz. It helped her turn her life around. “A lot of people think they can’t receive help, or they find themselves feeling helpless,” she says. “But the people here at MEND really care. They really want you to succeed.”
By Volunteer Bill Kelley