Shelby bank employee reaches out to help coworker in need

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CUB employee Tiffany McMichael was moved by coworker Juliana Cruz’s troubles, so she reached out to get some financial assistance for Cruz.

By Spencer Jenkins

As Juliana Cruz experienced the grief of a lost loved one and the pain and frustration of disease, her colleague, Tiffany McMichael, couldn’t stand around as a wallflower – she went into action and helped Cruz’s life financially and emotionally. “Her husband passed away last year in August, unexpectedly, in a car accident,” McMichael said. When Cruz’s husband died, she was pregnant with a baby girl. Now 8 months old, Jahania Flores, was diagnosed with Craniosynostosis, a condition in which one or more of the fibrous sutures in an infant skull prematurely fuses by ossification (the natural process of bone formation), changing the growth pattern of the skull. The disease causes intracranial pressure that can lead to visual impairment or impairment of mental development and a great reduction in IQ. “Being an unexpected single mother is hard enough,” McMichael said. “She has an immense amount of medical bills.” On top of everything, it is thought that Cruz’s baby might become blind because of the disease, she said. McMichael said that’s why she nominated Cruz for the WAVE-Channel 3 “Pass the Cash” program, which according to the station’s Web site, “has given away thousands of dollars to worthy recipients.” Each recipient, chosen by a panel of judges that review the nominators essay on why the nominee should be chosen, receives $300. Cruz and McMichael developed a friendship when Cruz was hired as a teller at Citizens Union Bank and was trained by McMichael. Throughout their relationship Cruz has informed McMichael about what she has been going through. “I chose her [to nominate] because I cannot imagine what she’s going through,” McMichael said. “I’m a first-time mother, and I feel for women who lose a spouse. Her daughter being sick is just the icing on what is a terrible cake.” McMichael presented the cash to Cruz, who thought she would be attending a training session last Friday at CUB’s main office on Midland Trail. The whole process and presentation were kept secret to surprise Cruz. “Everyone has been respectful with the secret,” McMichael said. “You can hear the excitement in my voice because I’m the one to give her the check [cash]!” Adilene Cruz, Juliana’s sister, who also is a CUB employee, said she was glad for her sister. “I’m excited and surprised, and I didn’t know about it,” Juliana Cruz said. “I thought I was coming to a training [too].” Dawne Gee, who heads the program at WAVE, said she would do this every day for people if she could. “We try to pick the one with the greater need,” she said. “No one is ever really turned down.” Upon receiving the award Juliana Cruz burst into tears and said she does her best to “go on and be strong.” “You have no idea what this means,” she said. “I want to be strong for her [her daughter] and make her think she doesn’t have problems.” She said this presentation confirms that she is not alone in the world with her issues. “It means so much I don’t know how to explain it,” she said. “I know I’m not alone.” She said she still doesn’t know if her daughter will be able to see and that her doctor had never seen a case like this. Gee told her that she “appreciates doctors” but that Cruz needs to put her faith in God because God is the only one who knows what to do. Although Gee said $300 isn’t a lot, she also said many people donate more money and buy people what they need after seeing the broadcast, which will be today. McMichael said after the presentation, an anonymous donor gave another $100 to Cruz. Before Cruz arrived, there as a little chaos when Gee and her team realize they didn’t have the $300 and had to borrow money from the bank. “It’s a good thing we are at a bank today because I don’t even have my debit card!” Gee said. The bank was reimbursed after the presentation.