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Esperanza establishes Endowment Fund with The Cleveland Foundation

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent  


Esperanza Inc. and The Cleveland Foundation entered into an historic partnership and established the Esperanza Inc. Endowment Fund of the Cleveland Foundation on Dec. 16, 2008.

“This has never been done before,” said Esperanza Founder and President Emeritus, Luis Martínez. He describes Esperanza as a labor of love, and a commitment to provide Cleveland Latinos an opportunity to better educational services.


“There is a sea of desperation in our community when it comes to education, and Esperanza is a little raft keeping hope afloat,” he said.  


Martínez said the challenge now is to get the Latino community to invest in Esperanza and unite to overcome the challenges. He said the city’s Latino population is predominantly under the age of 25 and had tremendous potential that needs to be cultivated so they can become leaders and give back to the community.


“This is a dream come true for a disabled veteran,” said Martínez, who is the recipient of two Purple Hearts.


Martínez emphasized the demand is greater than the resources available and credited Esperanza’s Chief Executive Officer Barbara Esperón for addressing the social, psychological, economical, and cultural barriers that plague the community.


“We literally serve over 1,000 students annually via our computer training program, ESL classes, during in-school tutoring programs, after-school programs, scholarships, and referral services,” Esperón said.


The Endowment Fund will help the organization sustain its current programs, expand services, and award more scholarships in the future. “Our goal is to raise $1.25 million dollars in three years,” said Martínez. The fundraising effort will be known as Campaign 25 and funds will be managed by The Cleveland Foundation.


Caprice Bragg, Vice President for Gift Planning and Donor Relations, said the Foundation was honored to become partners with Esperanza and applauded the organization’s passion and commitment. She said the partnership has been 25 years in the making and the Foundation is eager to share its resources, “We take this role very seriously and are truly honored,” Bragg said.


Esperón said the Endowment Fund indicates Esperanza’s boosts the community’s confidence that their funds are secure. However, the current economic slump has dwindled individual and corporate pledges but the non-profit is marching forward, “Our most important strategic goals are to find new revenue streams and partnerships and diversify our current revenue streams. More importantly, like most non-profits today, our number one objective is to weather the economic storm we are all facing intact and to continue to be of service to our community,” said Esperón.

Lorraine Vega, Esperanza’s Honorary Board Member said the endowment solidifies the support the Foundation has provided Esperanza. “It also demonstrates where the Hispanic community is as a whole in terms of investing in our children and creating a stronger and different relationship with the Cleveland Foundation; this will put us all in a different place in terms of longevity,” she said.


Martínez incorporated the Cleveland Hispanic Scholarship Fund in 1983 and the organization awarded its first scholarship—a $200 gift to a Lincoln West High School student.  

In the photograph by Arooj Ashraf is The Cleveland Foundation Group, L-R:
Caprice H. Bragg, Marie L. Monago, Luis Martínez, Andrew Connors, Ronald Richard, Dr. María José Pujana, Barbara Esperón, Lorraine Vega, and Terri Bradford Eason.


The name was officially changed to Esperanza Inc. in 1987. And in the past 25 years the non-profit has fought an uphill battle to provide scholarships, mentoring, job preparation, and other services to a growing Latino population.


Seventy-six percent of Latino students drop out of school in Cleveland, the highest percentage in the nation. Martínez said there is an urgency to combat illiteracy, social and psychological issues that prevent Latinos from succeeding and a partnership with the foundation will lift the community from its bootstraps.


“I hope the fund will grow to $10 million in our lifetime,” Martínez said.


Andrew Connors, Esperanza Board member, conducted an in-depth diagnostics to match a foundation’s strengths with Esperanza’s needs and recommended The Cleveland Foundation to the endowment committee.  He said the Foundation offers great services at a level of sophistication, unmatched by any other organization in the region, and its strong platform will give Esperanza the leverage it needs for growth.


Cleveland Foundation President and CEO, Ronald B. Richard, applauded Esperanza’s mission and assured the Foundation would be an active partner. Quoting a Japanese phrase, Richard reminded Esperanza’s representatives to keep an open line of communication, “I want to build my own personal relationships with the Hispanic community and Esperanza,” he said.


Esperón said the organization depends on volunteers to achieve its goal and encourages everyone to get involved and to invest in time, talent, and treasure.  To see 75 ways you can get involved with Esperanza visit: http://www.esperanzainc.org/forms/75waysFLYER.pdf


For more information on Campaign 25, visit: http://www.esperanzainc.org/campaign25.htm


Editor’s Note: Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Ward 14 Councilman Joe Santiago met with Esperanza students on Dec. 17, 2008, to discuss how the organization impacts their lives. Watch the video at: http://www.esperanzainc.org/videos.htm






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