Betty Cruz

As Deputy Chief of Special Initiatives for Mayor William Peduto, Betty Cruz gets to work with “great community partners to tackle a range of quality of life issues in our city,” she says. “From building more welcoming experiences to connecting families to affordable healthcare and free meals programming, it’s incredibly rewarding work that never stops.”

Monday, June 13

Whether I’m at my neighborhood cafe Tazza D’Oro or popping by Zeke’s in East Liberty, I start every day with a caffeine jolt from one of my two favorite spots. Now I’m ready for the day.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

First up: Jake Watson, a PhD candidate at Boston University will be featuring Pittsburgh as his U.S. case study on immigration, citizenship and post-industrialism. We’re constantly learning and, if there is anything I can share to lift up Pittsburgh and support others working to advance immigrant and Latino integration, I’m all in.

Next, I’m meeting with Megan Andros of The Heinz Endowments. She is a force who understands the ins and outs of what is needed to engage veterans and military families.

Then I’ll jump on the line for our weekly 30-minute Healthy Together check-in, a project of Live Well Pittsburgh, to talk through what’s in the hopper for our enrollment outreach. Signing up for healthcare can be overwhelming and we’re lucky to have partners like Consumer Health Coalition helping the community get covered and stay covered.

The afternoon lineup includes a meeting with the Mayor to talk through one of my Welcoming Pittsburgh projects. I’ll close out the day at Schoolhouse Yoga. Namaste.

Tuesday, June 14

Excited to start the day with WQED for an upcoming documentary spotlighting Pittsburgh’s growing immigrant and refugee community.

Afrika Yetu leads attendees in a dance that has all of Market Square moving. Photo: World Refugee Day.
Afrika Yetu leads attendees in a dance that has all of Market Square moving. Photo: World Refugee Day.

Switching gears, I’ll be sitting down with one of the leads tackling veterans homelessness locally to think about some new ways the Mayor’s Office can offer support.

By the afternoon, I’m off to catch up with Renee Piechocki of the Office of Public Art about a grant we were awarded by the National Endowment of the Arts. Then, off to Oakland to hear about work being done by Latinos that is enriching our city.

The day ends with a flashback to my teenage years in Miami where I would play my Violent Femmes CDs (remember those?) over and over. Mr. Smalls, here we come.

Wednesday, June 15

I’m reminded each day that this work is impossible without partnerships. Just today the schedule includes:

Stopping by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to talk about summer plans for our GrubUp campaign, meeting with the team at the Department of Human Services leading their immigrant engagement work, grabbing a bite with County Health Director Dr. Karen Hacker to talk about Live Well, speaking with Doctors Without Borders to plan for the Forced From Home exhibition coming to Schenley Plaza in October, and launching our We Move series with The Global Switchboard and Shift Collaborative to advance awareness for diverse cultures in Pittsburgh through community celebrations.

It’s about partnerships.

Betty kayaking at Presque Isle. Photo by her husband, Paul Perowicz.
Betty kayaking at Presque Isle. Photo by her husband, Paul Perowicz.

And tonight, we bowl. Stonewall Bowling’s first season kicks off. Can’t wait.

Thursday, June 16

In a Northside state of mind. We are teaming up with the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, U.S. Department of the Interior, and friends from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Phipps Conservatory to announce Let’s Move! Outside. The presser will be followed by a service project with kiddos.

After getting my hands into some dirt, I’ll head to the Consumer Health Coalition for our check-in with the National League of Cities, which funded our joint health benefits work, followed by our Healthy Together full team meeting to coordinate efforts across our growing partnership network.

Closing out the day with one of my favorite events of the year, Cave Canem, at City of Asylum. Many of City of Asylum’s shows are free and their events are hands down one of the few places where you see Pittsburghers of different backgrounds, in every sense of the word, sitting side by side. Love them.

Betty's dad, Pablo Cruz, at his 80th birthday fiesta in Miami, doing it up the Cuban way.
Betty’s dad, Pablo Cruz, at his 80th birthday fiesta in Miami, doing it up the Cuban way.
Betty’s dad, Pablo Cruz, at his 80th birthday fiesta in Miami, doing it up the Cuban way.

Friday, June 17

Music is in the air bright and early: starting my service on the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Community Advisory Council, and then running over to participate in another fave: World Refugee Day at Market Square!

Ending the week with a dinner party at Navushouse on the Northside, bringing together a handful of amazing welcoming partners turned friends for good food and conversation.

Saturday, June 18

We’re hosting our first Citizenship Day of 2016 at Goodwill’s headquarters in Lawrenceville with nonprofits offering citizenship services, pro bono legal help, and a mock interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to demystify the process. The event is free, call or text 412-254-4820 for information.

In the afternoon, my husband and I will hit the road to his hometown of Erie, PA and spend some time on the beautiful Presque Isle—my happy place.

Sunday, June 19

Celebrating my father-in-law today and my own papi from afar. Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing dads and role models out there!

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.