El Centro de la Mujer is a project supported by Toledo Area Ministries, but Annoni, who is the founder, said El Centro will be announcing soon the advisory board.
The opening of the multi-purpose facility is a dream come true for the Argentine-born Annoni, whose passion for the empowerment of Latinas has been widely recognized and admired by her peers in the field of social services.
Annoni will continue serving the Latino community as an editor/reporter for both the weekly La Prensa newspaper and the quarterly La Prensa La Revista.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Annoni about the community’s response to her open house. “When you have an event like this, you know your friends will be there to support you. They know your work and they know your passion. But when so many people you never met before come in to support your mission, the idea and El Centro, just based upon what they saw in your invitation, it really becomes inspiring.
“People came out because it was something new in Toledo to support Latinas, and they wanted to know how they could be a part of what we are doing. A group from the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women at the University of Toledo came out first thing in the morning. I had never met them before nor had I ever had a close working relationship with their agency,” explained Annoni.
“Another group came from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. They all said they have to do something and they want to reach out to Latinas,”
Among those who attended the open house were two detectives from the Domestic Violence Unit of the Toledo Police Department. “I’ve worked with the unit on various committees but I was so honored that they would take time from their busy schedules to stop by. They said ‘we’re here to support you and the women. If you have any women who are victims of domestic abuse and need special attention, let us know immediately.’ To have people that you know only from meetings and committees say that they are here to support your women is awesome,” said Annoni.
She has also held preliminary talks with Project Able about coordinating efforts on issues such as immigration.
El Centro de la Mujer opened its doors on August 8 for participants – Annoni does not call them clients – and Annoni explained her philosophy that has made her a leading advocate for Latina empowerment both in her native Argentina and the United States.
“I’m only the person who put this together, this is your center. Whatever happens here happens only because you want it and not because I think it is a cool idea,” Annoni told the first group of women. She has seen an average of 16 women attend the center for the last three Mondays, and that is without having had any funding.
“The only support we have had comes from the members, who are volunteers. We are all working very hard because we share in the ownership.
“When you do the right thing and you put your heart and passion into what you do, the funding will follow,” said Annoni.
She is delighted with the response she has received from her Monday morning groups and plans to extend her community outreach by providing evening English classes beginning in September. She hopes these classes will attract the husbands of many of the participants in her morning groups.
She will also launch Spanish classes for adults and programs to prepare Latinas for careers in the business world as well as to teach computer basics.
And Annoni also has some interesting new projects for children. Working with her talented daughter Natalia and her friend Lindsee, students at the Toledo School for the Arts, they will offer art classes and dance instruction, thus making El Centro de la Mujer a full-family-service agency.
El Centro de la Mujer will also provide Latino cultural sensitivity training, said Annoni, who is bilingual (Spanish/English), and who earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at the prestigious University of Buenos Aires.
Because Annoni is known for always looking forward, La Prensa wondered if she ever looks back and reflects upon her almost five year stint at Adelante?
“When I moved to Ohio in 2005, Adelante opened the doors for my involvement with the Latino community,” she responded.
El Centro de la Mujer will soon have a Web site. Until that time, Annoni can be reached at (419) 708-0668.