By Joe Capozzi
The Palm Beach Post
Ruth Renderos has her hands full these days. That much is apparent when she answers the phone and the sounds of crying and laughing children are heard before she can even say hello.
It doesn’t take long for Renderos to break down in tears as she describes the depths of her family’s despair, a plunge she never could have seen coming when the year started with such hope and optimism.
Back in March, she and her longtime partner, Alberto Castillo, finally got engaged. The Belle Glade natives had been together for more than 15 years and built a family of five young children.
They managed to make ends meet through Alberto’s construction job while Ruth raised the kids. They were evicted in 2019 but soon found a new home. Ruth took a job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office to help with the bills.
They started planning for a December wedding.
Then came the coronavirus pandemic, which led to Ruth being laid off. She and Alberto clung to hope. They made plans to meet for dinner after Alberto got off work on April 17 so they could continue to plan their wedding.
A few hours before they were supposed to meet, Renderos got word that Castillo had been involved in a car crash.
Her repeated calls to his cell phone went unanswered. Using her phone app, she was able to trace his location to the northbound lanes of U.S. 27 in Lake Harbor.
She arrived as a Traumahawk helicopter was taking off for St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. By the time she drove to the hospital, Castillo had died. He was 37.
The Florida Highway Patrol said Castillo was heading north in a Cadillac Escalade behind a commercial truck that was attempting to make a right turn. Castillo couldn’t slow down in time and slammed into the back of the truck.
Before the crash, Alberto had told mutual friends he was going to Clewiston to pick up flowers for Ruth, said Maria Munoz, a social worker with the Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County.
“He was our supporter all the time. He always provided for us, so I could take care of the kids,’’ Ruth, 32, said through tears.
Now, Ruth is a widow struggling to survive with five children ranging in age from 7 to 1.
Ruth and her children have gotten by with donations from friends and family to supplement the sporadic housekeeping jobs she gets.
But their vehicle was totaled in Alberto’s accident and their small home is in disrepair. The floors have holes or sag, the roof leaks and some parts of the ceilings have mold.
In late October, their power was cut off and they went without electricity for a day until the Salvation Army paid the bill.
Ruth is not eligible for unemployment benefits because she did not work long enough at her job.
Her parents are unable to help with the children because her father has Parkinson’s disease and her mother suffered a stroke last year.
The Farmworker Council has helped with diapers, food and social services. But the family needs a new home and new car, and Ruth needs a job and a daycare provider.
And Ruth and her children also need grief counseling.
“Her kids have been hurt by all of this. They keep asking why God took their daddy,’’ Munoz said.
If the family’ needs can be met, it will give Ruth a chance to raise her family in a safe environment.
“If their needs are met, the stress in their lives will not entirely go away,’’ said Lois Monroe, a case worker at the Farmworker Council, “but it will give them a chance to get back on their feet.’’
Ruth Renderos has struggled to raise five children since her partner was killed in a car accident in April.
She needs a new home with new furniture and appliances. She needs a new car. And she needs help with daycare for her kids so she can find a new job.
Ruth and her children also can benefit from having adequate clothing. The two oldest children Alberto Jr., 7, and Cataleya, 6, need uniforms for school. They could also benefit from grief counseling.
Nominating agency: Farmworker Council of Palm Beach County.
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