Sometimes, a job is more than just a job. For Lillian Montalvo, taking a position as a full-time receptionist at Highbridge Community Life Center marked a new chapter in her life. "That was when my life really changed," she says. "I was finally able to get off public assistance."
Montalvo had been a VISTA volunteer at Highbridge more than a decade earlier when, after leaving for a short time, she returned looking for work. That was seven years ago. With no full-time openings available, she was forced to accept a part-time job as a receptionist, sometimes working only 3 to 4 hours a week. After months of patience, she was rewarded when a full-time receptionist's position opened; she jumped to fill it. She was quickly promoted and now works in Personnel as the supervisor of seven receptionists employed by HCLC. "I've learned more responsibility. I make out the schedules, coordinate vacations and oversee receptionists at each site," she explains.
Born in Puerto Rico, Montalvo moved with her family to the Bronx as a young girl. "I didn't know any English then," she points out. A recipient of public assistance throughout her childhood and well into her adult life, Montalvo desperately wanted to provide a better life for her own family. Luckily, she found the support she needed at Highbridge Community Life Center. "I love Highbridge," she says. "It has offered me better opportunities, and the people here really help you out. Sister Ellenrita has been so wonderful. She is my guardian angel! She helped me get this job, and she also helped me get my oldest daughter, Jennifer, into Mother Cabrini High School by finding scholarships."
In return, Montalvo is known to go that extra mile for her colleagues. It isn't unusual to see her waiting patiently to lock up after everyone has finished their daily work, never complaining if she is delayed. "This is my second home," she jokes.
She credits her current position not only with helping her stay off public assistance, but with helping her to talk and write better in English. Montalvo wants to continue her education in the future and still dreams of obtaining her GED and eventually getting a job as a social worker. "I want to work in family counseling," she says.
Until then, she is content to stay at Highbridge with the people who mean so much to her.