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Local fast-food worker invited to White House for Pope Francis' visit

Adriana Alvarez of Cicero, a single mother, is a national leader in the campaign to raise the minimum wage. She'll help greet Pope Francis at the White House this week. | Provided

Come Wednesday, Adriana Alvarez will take some time off from working at a west suburban McDonald’s to join thousands of others invited to help greet Pope Francis at the White House.

The Cicero woman, a single mother, is a national leader in the Fight for $15 campaign to raise the minimum wage, and she’s been chosen to help greet Pope Francis as he begins his six-day visit to America which will highlight social justice issues and the Catholic church’s goal to be more inclusive.

“I’m so honored. It’s a great privilege to be able to represent everyone – my family, Catholics and the Fight for $15 organizers,” Alvarez, 23, said.

Pope Francis will arrive in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. On Wednesday, she will be among an expected crowd of about 15,000 people on the south lawn of the White House as the pope is welcomed by President Barack Obama. After that welcome ceremony comes a parade along the National Mall.

Francis will speak to a joint meeting of Congress Thursday morning, and will leave for New York City later that day. He will leave for Philadelphia on Saturday and spend the better part of two days there before leaving Sunday night to return to Rome. It is his first visit to the United States since becoming pope in March 2013.

Alvarez said she’s struggling to make ends meet. At a Cicero McDonald’s she averages between 30 and 37 hours a week while her 3-year-old son goes to daycare. Her child care costs have gone from $45 a month to $75 a week due to state funding cuts, she said.

“It’s not just me. It’s everyone and everywhere in the U.S. and across the globe,” Alvarez said of her struggles to make ends meet.

Various organizations were invited by the White House to distribute tickets to the welcome ceremony. Among them was Fight for 15, which selected Alvarez, among others, to go and is paying for her trip.

Alvarez said she’s not sure if she’ll be able to speak with Pope Francis, but she’ll be ready just in case.

“If I get the chance to speak to the Pope, I would thank him for being the way he is, for caring,” Alvarez said. “I would also tell him how hard it is to be a single mom working for McDonald’s. That it’s hard to pay rent, to pay for day care, to raise a child, and to survive.”