canceled its annual Dia de los Niños celebration in
April, which has developed into a school fair allowing families
to celebrate the academic success of their children. Likewise,
Latino nonprofits have canceled programs and events and
postponed fundraisers, while repurposing their missions to meet
needs related to the ongoing pandemic.
For example, the
Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center (SQACC)
is providing free meals to students in the Old South End. On
Tuesdays and Thursdays, the center’s staff and volunteers join
forces to pack 100 brown bag lunches and hand them out at noon.
Since there is no high school in
the Old South End providing free meals to students, Nana’s
Kitchen has become an important source of nutritious meals
“Bowsher (High School), when you don’t have transportation, can
still be far for families in the Old South End,” said Taylor
Burciaga, SQACC executive director. “So that’s when we
looked at Nana’s Kitchen and looked at one of our grants,
which is supposed to be teaching about healthy cooking and
thought about how we could still use the grant, still use the
kitchen and donations.”
Ms. Burciaga stated the Tuesday-Thursday lunches helps fill the
entire week for kids, adding to other free meals being provided
by Queen of Apostles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. By the
end of the first week in April, SQACC will have handed out 600
brown bag lunches, which has reinvigorated the staff—because
they see the direct impact of their efforts.
“It’s awesome. It allows them to see firsthand why it’s so
important for us to do what we do,” said Mrs. Burciaga. “They’ve
been really excited we’ve been able to do this. For me, I don’t
always get to have those direct interactions with the community.
It’s been awesome for me because I’ve been in the kitchen twice
a week putting these meals together.”
The SQACC executive director spoke with one mom by phone who
needed food for her family and a neighbor’s brood. Between them,
they had nine kids. SQACC was able to meet their need.
The nonprofit’s art coordinator already had been thinking beyond
the lunches when the governor announced schools would be closed
until May 1. Now, SQACC is adjusting its arts mission by putting
together 800 art kits to give to students from Escuela SMART and
Queen of Apostles.
“It’s really cool. Each kit is cultural,” said Mrs. Balderas.
“We totally understand that clothing, food and transportation
are essential right now. But for the kids, art can be such a
huge way for them to express themselves, especially right now.
It can be really scary for them. It can be really stressful for
them. Some of them need that creative outlet. These art kits can
really help with that part of the curriculum they’re really not
having right now.”
SQACC is working to secure the $4,000 in funding that will be
needed to pay for the art kits, which Mrs. Balderas hopes to
distribute sometime in mid-April.
The art kits were welcome news to Escuela SMART school
officials, who now have to plan for kids being out of the
classroom for at least seven weeks, instead of the original
three. Educators there have turned into social workers,
too—trying to help struggling families as much as possible. A
survey just went out to parents to gauge their ongoing concerns
“We just want to make sure we’re meeting the parents’ needs,”
said Jessica Molina Kuhlman, Escuela SMART principal. “We
can sit back and guess what our parents need, but we really need
to hear from the parents what they need. With the most recent
announcement, finding out what our parents need is more urgent
Trying to keep elementary students sharp on their bilingual
skills is an added challenge other schools don’t face, admitted
Mrs. Kuhlman. The so-called “blizzard bags” sent home with
academic lessons can only do so much.
School officials have compiled online outlets for speaking
Spanish, but most families don’t have Internet access at home.
Escuela SMART leaders have tried to spread the word about an
offer by Buckeye Broadband to provide free Internet service to
families who cannot afford it and qualify.
“Hopefully we’ve connected most of our families in need of
Internet to Buckeye directly so they can get that need met,”
said Mrs. Kuhlman. “I’m really grateful for our staff in all of
this. These are unprecedented times and I think everybody’s just
figuring out what do we need to do and how quickly can we do
staff is mostly working from home, checking by phone on the
overall well-being of clients and families and answering
questions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“When this thing first started, there was a real sense of
panic,” said Sabina Elizondo-Serratos, Adelante executive
director. “People were calling to say they had never bought
sanitizing wipes before because they can’t afford them and not
something in their budget. So they’re panicking because people
are telling them they need them.”
Adelante this week received word it would receive a $5,000
emergency grant from the Greater Toledo Community Foundation.
That money will go toward “household help kits,” to provide
needy Latino families a variety of items they cannot
afford—disposable wipes, personal hygiene items, and even food,
in some cases. Ms. Serratos estimates those will be available
“That way I think we’ll be able to help more families as opposed
to first-come, first-served, and all of sudden all of the money
is gone,” she said. “We have to think creatively in order to
impact more families than just a few.”
Community health workers continue to make home visits with
pregnant clients and mental health caseworkers are doing the
same with the families they see on a regular basis. In addition
to client families, Adelante’s staff has become the go-to for
the local Spanish-speaking population.
“There’s a genuine fear of the unknown. But you add in the
language barrier, you add in an undocumented status and that
anxiety, in some cases, is quadrupled for our clients,” said
Mrs. Serratos. “We have to make sure we are there to answer a
call of ‘what do I do?’ or ‘I don’t understand what the governor
just said.’ We’re serving a different purpose just because it’s
become a free-for-all now.”
Mrs. Serratos fears for the academic progress of students from
Spanish-speaking families who may not understand the nuances of
homeschooling their children during the pandemic. Adelante staff
are reaching out and offering homework help to the 200 or so
students in the nonprofit’s youth programs—but she called that a
“drop in the bucket” for the number of students enrolled
elsewhere besides Escuela SMART and Queen of Apostles.
“I’m really concerned about that,” she said. “I’m hoping by the
end of this, we make some intentional changes for some impact.”
The Believe Center
had to close its sports programs and afterschool activities
ceased once schools went on a three-week hiatus. But the
center’s toughest decision was to temporarily end its child care
operation when state restrictions forced day care centers to
seek a special pandemic license to continue operating.
Instead, leaders at the Believe Center have been working the
phones, talking to and encouraging kids, and passing out food
baskets to needy families who participate in the center’s
“A lot of what we’ve been trying to do is share information with
our families,” said assistant director Elaina Hernandez. “When
we hear about food giveaways, lunches, different kinds of
programs as far as education, we’ve been really trying to get
that information to our families.”
El Corazñn de Mexico
which normally practices at The Believe Center, instead has the
dance troupe holding practices digitally via the
teleconferencing service Zoom.
But the biggest impact at The Believe Center these days is
ensuring the kids have someone they can talk to, helping them
maintain their mental well-being during a time of social
“A lot of the kids are lonely and just able to talk to somebody.
Text messaging is great, but it’s not the same as actually
talking to somebody,” said Ms. Hernández. “But we’ve always had
that aspect to us. It’s not just about the sports. Sports just
give us access to the kids. Our mission has always been that we
have happy kids or they know there’s an adult who cares about
Opening Day festivities originally scheduled for this weekend at
the new multi-purpose sports complex at Danny Thomas Park
are now canceled. Baseball hall-of-famer Cal Ripken, Jr., was
supposed to fly into town to throw out the first pitch. Now
Believe Center leaders fear a spring and summer baseball season
could fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic, too.
According to Ms. Hernandez, they’re looking at creating an
informal intramural fall baseball league that would run
alongside soccer and flag football programs at the multi-sport
complex. That’s just another example of how everyone is trying
to adjust to that “new normal,” while also planning for the
uncertainty that still lies ahead—and the prospect that “new
normal” could last a long time to come.