OKEECHOBEE — Sandra Cruz is originally from the Dominican Republic but has lived in Port St. Lucie for the last 14 years and has worked in Okeechobee for eight years. When she first came to the United States in 1994, she lived in New York, but after she got married, she moved to Puerto Rico. Her husband, Angel, is half Dominican and half Puerto Rican. They have two children, who were born in Puerto Rico — Ana and Miguel-Angel.
They felt like things weren’t going anywhere for them, and they decided to move to Florida. “We were in a very small town and wanted more for our kids,” she said. They ended up in Port St. Lucie.
When she first came from Puerto Rico, she took several part-time jobs while looking for something more permanent, and she put in an application to work for Legacy Behavioral Health Care, because one of her children’s teachers suggested it. She had forgotten all about it though because nothing ever came of it. About a year later, someone called her to set up an interview. She said she was so confused because she did not remember applying for any job, but she said, “Yes! Yes! I would love to have an interview.” They told her she would have to come to Okeechobee for the interview, but she had no idea where Okeechobee was. She had never even heard of Okeechobee. “I said Okeechobee? Okay! Just give me the address.”
That was in June of 2012. She put the address in her GPS, but did not realize she needed to put in northwest, and she ended up over by Walmart in a trailer park, she said. She finally called and told them she was lost, and they helped her find her way there. Once she arrived, a very nice lady named Heidi Garcia interviewed her, and she was surprised because a lot of the interview was in Spanish.
“I thought I would need to speak English to be hired,” she said. Later Ms. Garcia explained she wanted to be sure Ms. Cruz was fluent in the different dialects and could speak to all of their clients with ease.
“I told Ms. Garcia I wanted a job where I could stay for a long time. I want to retire here,” she said. She was hired and has been there ever since.
Mrs. Cruz is known for her positive attitude. She goes out of her way to spread happiness and does everything she can to get clients the services they need said Kay Adams, who works with her.
Mrs. Cruz tries to live her life by two principals. The first is that she needs to pay forward. “I have a fear of God,” she said. “What God has done in my life, I cannot stay with it. I need to share those experiences and give it away, because I need to keep the blessings coming in. If you don’t clean your closet, you’re not gonna get new clothes. So, I think I need to maintain flow in my life, in my blessings. I need to give it to the next person, so that person can be a blessing to somebody else.”
The second is that she does everything she can to maintain empathy towards the clients she sees every day. “You cannot lose that empathy, because after so many years you might end up losing some of that human sensibility,” she said, “because you have heard the same stories over and over and sometimes you doubt it is true.” She has a 40-minute drive to work every morning, and she spends it praying that she will never lose her empathy, that she will be the one to help the person coming in with a problem that day. “I came here with no experience in this field, but just as a human being, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I try to make a difference. If I cannot help everybody, maybe I can help just one today. I want to make a contribution for a better world,” she said.