STORIES BY DEMI ROUHANI

Final Project: Impact of COVID on Real Estate in Jacksonville

Published: December 13, 2020

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Foster Closet is Helping the Community One Child at a Time

Published: Nov. 9, 2020

Since the beginning of COVID-19, helping within the community is more important than ever. 

Foster Closet, a local nonprofit organization that provides free resources to foster children throughout Northeast Florida, is doing exactly that.

The organization’s name coincides with its origination, as Foster Closet began in Founder Tammy McGuire’s very own home closet. She began storing the resources in her closet until there were too many to fit. Then, she moved everything to her garage. Eventually, Foster Closet raised enough money and moved to a 10,000 square foot facility, where it remains today.

The truck used to deliver resources to children assisted by Foster Closet. Photo by Demi Rouhani.

The organization’s purpose is not only to provide resources to children in need but also to give them hope and help provide stability both now and in their futures. The Foster Closet’s volunteers do their best to connect with every child they help. 

University of North Florida intern and assistant director at Foster Closet, who was in foster care herself says,

“I can kind of relate to the children more, see their perspective, and be there for them to connect with as well.”

Along with emotional support, Foster Closet also provides resources that are vital to giving these children the lives they deserve. These resources include, but are not limited to, clothing, toys, books and beds, which are all delivered to the foster children for free. 

McGuire says that Foster Closet is the only organization in the five-county area to provide this large of an inventory. 

Other services they provide include tutoring, training and support groups. The support groups are offered to both children in foster care and to those who are aging out, to provide them with guidance.

The beginning of the coronavirus pandemic created complications for Foster Closet. Luckily, they had held a fundraiser right before the outbreak, which allowed them to raise a sufficient amount of money.

However, all of their volunteers had to leave in March to keep themselves safe, leaving Foster Closet with little assistance. Regardless of the lack of help, McGuire knew that they still had to serve, and she and her children continued to do so. 

Foster Closet served more people this year than they did in the past – the pandemic didn’t slow down the abuse or neglect children faced.

McGuire has had 61 children in her care, and she has been impacted by all of them. However, one foster child stuck out. 

McGuire was sitting at her kitchen table eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with one of her foster children in care at the time – a 12-year-old little girl. 

With her brothers looking at her with anxious expressions, the girl said to McGuire, “You know we are in foster care because of me.” 

McGuire responded, telling her that they weren’t in foster care because of her. Rather, they were there because they saved themselves from the reality they were in. McGuire told the little girl that she was her hero, and the girl’s tears dried immediately. Her face lit up.

“I think that’s what I’m here for, connecting to a child and letting them know that their purpose on earth is bigger than their past,” said McGuire.

How Americans are Adjusting to Working from Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Published: Oct. 5, 2020

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It can be a difficult situation when your place of work happens to be the same place you relax, and the coronavirus has made that a reality for many. Millions of Americans are now working from home and there are mixed opinions about their new situation.

Hospital worker Denise Sarakbi is among ⅔ of Americans that are working from home due to COVID-19. Photo by Demi Rouhani.

COVID-19 has changed the lives of Americans in many ways, including their everyday work routine. Although it has been a big adjustment to those who used to go into work five times a week, many actually prefer this new arrangement. Being in the comfort of one’s home helps a lot of these people focus better and work more efficiently.

“My work is actually getting done more effectively at home because I am more comfortable and don’t have the added stress that I do at the office,” said Sarakbi.

She also says there are more benefits to working from home than there are disadvantages. Some of the benefits she outlines include working in pajamas, always being on time to work, and not having to deal with heavy traffic while driving to and from the office. 

Sarakbi experienced some financial losses in the beginning of the pandemic, due to her work hours being cut by a fifth, but says that she actually has saved money in the long run.

Working from home means people no longer have to take their commute to and from their job into consideration. Those who work far away from their homes have to pay for transportation everyday just to be able to do their job. Cutting this expense out of their everyday spending helps people save money long-term.

With no commute comes no traffic, which is just another benefit to working from home for some Americans. Angela Rukab, an executive assistant at a local financial service company, says that not having to deal with the stress of traffic every morning helps her start her day in a better mood. 

To keep a good mental health at home, she tries to step away from her computer as much as possible and take her eyes off the screen.

“Sometimes I just walk away from the computer and stretch or I’ll run to the grocery store and get something to eat,” said Rukab. “It’s a change of scenery and sometimes you need that breath of fresh air.”

Although some may find working from home to be more efficient, others have been facing some difficulties while trying to adjust to their new circumstances. Those who still have their jobs are very appreciative that they are still able to work, but have some concerns with different aspects of having to work from home.

Compared to being in the office, working from home comes with a lot of distractions. Sarakbi says that her dog is the biggest distraction in her household since it barks every time someone walks by. 

Rukab says that her children are the biggest distraction at home. She has to occasionally stop her work to help them with homework, make them meals, and work around each of their schedules. However, regardless of these distractions, they get their work done the best they can under these circumstances.

“A job is a job and no matter how you look at it or where you do it, you still have the same expectations,” said Rukab.

Much like many other Americans, Sarakbi and Rukab are unsure of when they will be able to get back to their normal work lives and have accepted their new routine for the unforeseeable future.