Monica’s Story: Reaching Out to her Community

Meet Monica, an Outreach Specialist who lives with her three children in San Francisco.

How’s your family holding up with all the COVID-19 restrictions?

My youngest daughter just graduated from high school this summer and she’s attending City College of San Francisco. All her classes are on Zoom, which is very different for a lot of students. My oldest daughter was accepted into Columbia University and she’s earning her PhD there. However, she hasn’t been able to move out to New York because of all the restrictions. My two boys are in high school and 4th grade, and they’re both doing school virtually as well. This pandemic has been really tough on my kids.

Tell me more about your job.

I was very fortunate to get a job with the San Francisco Parks & Recreation Department right as the pandemic started. For all the new hires and volunteers, we’ve been doing job training online. That part’s been tough because I’m so used to working with people face-to-face. I’m taking as many training sessions as I possibly can to help me use the technology.

During our November to Remember initiative, you mentioned that your side hustle was COVID-19 community event planning. What does this look like?

I originally got started with COVID-19 community event planning since my previous part-time jobs were closed due to public health precautions. I was working in the cosmetology and massage therapy field. Additionally, I also worked with a local union to set up shows, greet vendors, and help get their tents set up. From personal experience, I know that hospitality jobs have been hit really hard during this pandemic. In San Francisco, we’re starting to close certain indoor establishments like restaurants, museums, and gyms again.

Fortunately, I still have family and friends that are willing to host small gatherings, which is where I come in to help. Early on during the pandemic, I was dispatched as a Disaster Service Worker (DSW) with the San Francisco Parks & Recreation Department. I learned about best practices for when it comes to physical distancing. These days, I’ve been focused on giving people advice for safely hosting, like graduation drive-bys and zoom birthday celebrations.

I’ve even helped with some in-person events as well, but they’re a little more challenging right now. Even though we say people need to stay six feet away from one another, that’s tough when it comes to things like passing food. In the event that someone is willing to host a small in-person event, I help make sure that the spaces have hand washing stations and everyone has a PPE pack that consists of things like hand sanitizer and a mask. With backyard parties, the public health department recommends keeping them to shorter periods and not having more than 12 people in attendance. The tougher holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up and we’re working with communities to make sure that everyone can celebrate safely.

Speaking of the holiday season, what does that look like for your family this year?

Here in San Francisco, we just got a notification advising against travel unless it’s essential. My goddaughter offered to come to the city and cook for my family so I could warm it up the day of Thanksgiving and she’d make the same meal for her family. That way, we could celebrate Thanksgiving over Zoom and it would be like we’re having the meal together even though we’re physically apart. The public health department is also advising that no one should be near anybody that’s not in their household.

For Christmas, my kids and I were thinking about having a theme for every room in our apartment. For example, my son would have a Thomas the Train theme, another room would have a Grinch theme, my daughter’s room would have a Nightmare Before Christmas theme, and our living room would have a traditional Christmas theme. We’re very excited about potentially getting a blow-up tree from Party City instead of a regular tree this year. It’s low maintenance, which I like, and something we’ve never tried before, which my kids like!

How do you feel about your financial situation?

I’ll be lucky to have earned $50,000 by the end of the year. I was deployed as a Disaster Service Worker (DSW) with the San Francisco Parks & Recreation Department this past spring, and two months into my job, I was hired on as the Community Development Outreach Specialist. I know I’m very fortunate to be earning income when so many people are struggling to find a job. But with my kids being home more, I feel like I’m spending a lot more money on things like food. I didn’t realize how much I depended on them having lunch at school. It’s tough not to overeat when you’re home for so long. I spend most of my money on things like food, school supplies for my son, and getting my car fixed since it broke down recently. We also had to buy a loft for my daughter so she could have a place of her own to study while she starts her PhD program at Columbia. Since the pandemic, she hasn’t been able to go there in person.

We live in federal subsidized housing and our rent actually increased. Pre-pandemic, I had a savings plan in place, but when the rent increased, it threw me off. For a while, I didn’t know how I was going to save money. Even now I’m still figuring it out.

I’d feel better if I could work part-time doing conventions or cosmetology work, but I just don’t know when opportunities like that will open up again. For now, we have to stay as strict with our budget as we can. The line for the Marin Food Bank is so long nowadays that we have to make an appointment ahead of time. The food bank used to be set up like an open farmers market where you could pick what you wanted, but now the volunteers just put pre-packed bags of food in your car.

What would you like to do after this is all over?

Prior to the pandemic, my kids and I had been talking about spending Christmas in Hawaii for what seems like forever. We’re all huge Disney fans and have dreamed about staying at the Disney resort, Aulani, on the island of Oahu. We just really want to have a vacation to get away from everything that’s going on.

How do you feel about SaverLife?

I’ve been a SaverLife member since the mid-2000s when it was formerly known as EARN. I really like the savings challenges the organization offers as well as the helpful articles. I know I can trust what’s been published.

Take Charge of Your Savings
Earn rewards for creating a brighter future
Sign up to save more

Recommended Articles

Emmanuel’s Story: A North Carolina Dad Invests in His Family’s Future

Meet Emmanuel, an Applications Analyst at a hospital. He used stimulus payments and savings to pay off debt during the pandemic. Earlier in life, Emmanuel wasn’t “the best with money.” He didn’t learn about money management when he was growing up and accrued significant credit card debt in his twenties.   The pandemic has been a… Read more