Life might not always go as planned, but having a roof over your head is something to be eternally thankful for.
One south suburban woman knows this all too well.
Ruth Ann Van Heel had quit her job to look after her ailing parents, and when they died, she was left with no home and no source of income.
All Ruth had was her car, a cellphone paid for by a friend, and her two pet cats.
She couldn’t find a shelter that would accept her and the cats, which led to her situation. She wasn’t prepared to give her cats up, as they were the only friends she had.
Like many people during the COVID pandemic, Ruth ran out of money, and there was no one to help her.
Or that’s what she thought. Because as it turned out, a staffing agency in Tinley Park had caught wind of Ruth’s situation.
Katie Murawski of Aerotek explained to CBS Chicago how she came to learn about Ruth:
“One of our employees called me and said: ‘Hey Kate, I just want to fill you in on something. There is somebody living in their car in our parking lot. She’s a super-nice lady. She has two cats.’”
Little did Katie know that the woman living in their parking lot had been parking in different spots every night for more than two months.
There was no heating for Ruth, and she’d had her female calico tabby, Pumpkin, and her mail longhair tabby, Puss Cat, sleeping on top of her for warmth.
After taking a liking to Ruth, Katie and her team decided they wanted to help her out.
Aerotek employees collected together a few basics that Ruth would need: food and blankets, and even books.
Katie knew that these small things would only go so far to help Ruth, so she looked at how she could help further.
She posted a picture of Ruth’s cats on an animal shelter’s Facebook page, expecting a small response.
The response she actually received was mind-blowing. Everyone wanted to help. People were asking what they could do to support Ruth, and a woman called Janine Marino got in touch.
“That’s when Janine got put into the conversation, and it was ‘I can take these cats. I can be there tomorrow. Whatever you guys need, I will be there.’”
Janine understood that Ruth desperately didn’t want to give up her cats, but because of her situation, she had no choice.
She made a promise to Ruth that she would work to get them adopted into a “wonderful home”.
It was difficult for Ruth to say goodbye, but after many hugs and kisses, she let Janine and her cats leave. Janine made sure Ruth was updated with her cats’ move, saying:
“I texted her some pictures of my foster cat room, so she was happy to see that. So I think it gave her a little bit of peace.”
Now that her cats are in a safe place, Ruth can finally put 100 percent of her attention into herself.
She’s found a shelter at Morningstar Mission in Joliet, and is looking to learn a trade to help her get back on her feet.
She knows how lucky she is to have been given a second chance at life, but she worries for others who are still in her situation. She said:
“I can’t believe there are people like me and there’s nowhere to go. There really is nowhere to go. I don’t know if anybody’s ever woke up, and before their eyes open, you have just with tears come down your face – and you’re not even awake yet.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Ruth get back on her feet, which you can find here.
You can also watch a video interview with Ruth and her supporters just below.
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