“I can help people who have no hope find hope again.” Erika Fuyo, Ritter Center
Erika Fuyo is the Patient Accounts Billing and Benefits Manager at Ritter Center. As a counselor of certified benefits Erika has helped thousands of people in her nine years at Ritter Center, identify, enroll, and manage public benefits that may be available to them, giving them hope and vital access to food, housing, and other support services. We recently talked to her about why she is so passionate about her work at Ritter Center, and what keeps her motivated to help people.
“Through my own personal struggles, I learned the value of counseling and the impact of others caring for me and encouraging me to change my life for the better. In learning how to deal with my own life challenges, I realized I also wanted to dedicate my own career to giving back to the community. My experience changed my life. I decided to turn it into something positive for both myself and others in the community,” recalled Erika.
“Connecting pieces is how I would describe what Ritter Center does. We are a bridge of resources for the community. These are human beings that have been displaced and need our help because trying to connect to housing when you are in crisis, in poverty and have no hope is too difficult. I have had the honor of helping many people for years and have seen multiple changes to our programs. We shift to be sustainable for the community to provide essential programs that are needed. We evolve as the community needs change,” described Erika.
Ritter Center started with donations in the beginning that came from the heart of donors who donated their time and funds. They gave everything they could give for others and for humanity.
“We saw the needs that weren’t being taken care of and started providing those services whether it was showers or case managers,” remembers Erika. “We became a Federally Qualified Health Center. Ritter continued to grow through volunteers, health care services, and partnerships with other organizations. We saw the great need of those without insurance. Our front desk can answer questions and help assess what’s needed. I am a counselor of certified benefits which means I help people enroll in public benefits for food, services, and housing. I help our clients start with what they need first. Your health is the foundation for everything. They need to get stable, work with housing, get a phone, and engage with mental health services. I can help people get back on track with life and be an advocate for them at the same time.
To be able to support someone to make a different life means the world to me. I also appreciate the opportunity to be there for the entire Latino community, children and veterans as well. This is my heart. It is what I stand for in society: fairness and equality.”
Erika particularly enjoys her work because she gets to engage with people on a deep level and to motivate them. She can help to set the goals and when those are achieved she is excited to make new goals.
“If they fail, we can repeat again. Sometimes I can motivate them by just talking with them as a human and sharing my own story with them. I tell them that I know what they are going through. Clients just out of jail from San Quentin are involved in my work, and one recently gave thanks to me and told me that what I said to him changed his life. This is what makes me feel valuable and it is a privilege to work at Ritter Center. I can do it – I can help people who have no hope find hope again,” notes Erika. “This touches my heart and soul more than anything else in the world. That’s why I’m here. When a client says that what you said made me change my perception to see things differently in order to take care of myself to make a change, I am forever moved”.
“Through this effort, I am forging new paths for the community. I can turn my personal passion into action.”