José Santiago: Treating everyone like family

José starts with a question: What would I hope someone would do if this were my family? Then he does what he can do to help.

Presented by: Our York Media
José Santiago (Our York Media)

“What if this were my family? What would I hope someone would do for them?”

That’s what José Santiago thinks about as he tries to connect people in need with services in the community as the director of the New American Welcoming Center at the YMCA in York.

Lately, he’s seen a lot of people who could easily be his family.

Since Hurricane Maria, there’s been a huge influx of people from Puerto Rico. They’re searching for housing and jobs, trying to rebuild the lives they left behind.

One woman’s story hit especially close to home.

She was from Yauco, the same town where José’s wife’s family is from. In Puerto Rico, she was a college professor. Then, Hurricane Maria destroyed her school. Now, she’s living in York working at a temp agency, trying to save money so she can get the qualifications to teach here.

His own family in Puerto Rico was able to stay and rebuild. But this woman’s story could easily have been theirs.

I just want to make sure that no one gets left out. No matter where they come from, they deserve the same services in the community.

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José Santiago

Each and every person he meets, he tries to help.

“I just want to make sure that no one gets left out,” he says. “No matter where they come from, they deserve the same services in the community.”

José’s roots in service run deep in York.

When his grandmother first moved here from Puerto Rico, she helped start a soup kitchen.

As a 9-year-old boy, José would clear tables, serve food, and make people feel welcome in the church basement.

That kind of service in the community was part of the fabric of his family — it’s just what they did.

It’s what he continues to do every day.

“That’s what makes me sleep well at night,” José says, “knowing I tried to help everyone who walked through my door that day.”

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