“We’re not going to give up. We’re going to get there,” he said.
Roughly 500 guests dressed in elegant gala-fitted ensembles were treated to a Latino three-course meal, and danced to the rthymns of the Sabor Latino band. There was also a silent auction.
Leandry praised the efforts of his staff and the community for the successes of the social service agency despite the recent ailing economy.
“When I think about the last year, I don’t want to talk about the poor economy,” Leandry said “I want to talk about how we dealt with it and how we continued providing all of the services for all those in need,” he said.
El Centro de Servicios Sociales is a non-profit agency that was founded with the goal of helping the often impoverished and non-English-speaking Latinos.
The agency assists the Latino and non-Latino communities with a youth program which includes: tutoring, adult support services which include translation, money management services for individuals with mental or physical illness, an employment program, a family violence prevention program, and support services for seniors under its El Dorado Senior Center.
Leandry said El Centro helped roughly 2,000 families last year, and among those families, 80 percent do not speak English.
“Many people ask us that all the time. If we still need translation services,” Leandry said “We’re getting new people that are moving here that do not speak English. Some of the seniors have been here for generations and they may talk some English but they don’t feel comfortable going to a doctor’s appointment. Our staff goes with them and translate for them. There is still a need. There is always a need,” he said.
Many guests said they came to support the advocacy agency because they believe in its mission and that it still continues to help many families in need.
William Torres, a maintenance employee at Lorain County Community College, said he would support El Centro “anyway that I can.” Torres, who has worked with another social service agency in Youngstown where he led AIDS prevention workshops, said he believes in the need for such agencies.
“I have seen the help that (El Centro) gives to the Hispanic community, with giving them food, clothing, helping them with their bills, translations and after-school tutoring,” he said, “They are very important. If it wasn’t for El Centro, a lot of the lower income families would not have anything.”
The $1.5 million Pearl Avenue Building Renovation Project
El Centro entered a building exchange agreement with the city of Lorain last year, where the plan is to move the agency from its current 31st street location to a bigger facility that will triple its size on the corner of 28th and Pearl Avenue. But additional funding is still needed for the renovation.
El Centro has raised $402,000, Leandry said. Plus, they expect to receive roughly $600,000 in federal funds after U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has pushed for roughly a $2.6 million bill to support special projects in Ohio. Although the bill has not yet been signed, Leandry said he is optimistic his agency will be receiving the federal funds after recently getting a call from the Sen. Brown’s office. Leandry said he is unaware exactly how much his agency will ultimately receive, and he will know by December.
“We know we’re getting an amount (in federal money) to start this project,” Leandry said. “Yes, we’re moving. It’s going to take a while. We’re crossing our fingers the (federal) bill will be signed. But we need our community to support our goal.
“There is a project in your backyard that you can support. We ask that this Christmas when you’re considering what to support that you will consider us,” he said, as the crowd broke out in applause and cheers.