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El Centro celebrates Dec. 14th opening at annual fundraiser
By Marcus Atkinson for La Prensa

Five years ago, the board of El Centro de Servicios Sociales, Inc. made a promise, a promise to raise money for a new building that would serve the people of Lorain.  The promise was also made to stay together, for the sake of the campaign, no retirements, no resignations.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, during its 37th Annual Gala, the campaign was celebrated with its goal to raise funds to move to the new facility to 2800 Pearl Avenue; it was achieved and now El Centro will have space almost doubling the size of its original facility, to serve predominately the minority communities in South Lorain.

“This year there has been many hardships and many successes,” said Victor Leandry, executive director of El Centro.  “I am proud to say that we will open the new building next month Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011, at 5pm.”

The opening day is actually an open house for the community to see the inside of the building, what Leandry says is not his, it is not El Centro’s, it belongs to the people, and the city of Lorain.

“This building belongs to the community,” said Leandry.  “That is one of the reasons why we did not want to finance the project; we did not want the community to have debt.”

According to Margarita Quińones, vice president of El Centro and chairwoman of the capital campaign to raise money for the new facility. Fundraising began three years ago; the goal was to raise $1.5 million, but the campaign fell slightly short at $1.2 million. But that will not stop the doors from opening and services to begin.

“Though we didn’t raise all the money the building will be fully functioning and ready to go,” said Jared Pérez, youth program coordinator of El Centro.

“Even though the building isn’t open yet, and we didn’t have an opening date yet, agencies came to partner with us to provide services to Lorain,” said Leandry.

The news of the new facility opening and more services for Lorain comes at a time when the Brookings Institute released poverty numbers Thursday, Nov. 3 that showed Lorain - in particular South Lorain – had experienced high poverty level spikes over the past five years. 

Donators of the capital campaign were truly a community effort, spearheaded by financial institutions, community organizations, and private donations.  The Gala attendees were supporters of El Centro – which provides services for the youth, the elderly, the disabled, and those who speak only Spanish.

Joel Arredondo, Lorain City Council President, was in attendance, as well as Lorain’s Rey Carrion, interim director of community development.  Marcy Kaptur, congresswoman for the 9th Congressional District, was in attendance as well as Ted Kalo, Lorain County Commissioner. 

Lilly Cavanaugh and Richard Romero of the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs traveled to enjoy the night, and representatives of the Lorain County Hispanic Fund showed support. Antonio Barrios, vice president of the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress (CHIP) and others from the political action committee attended.

A youth dance group, “Son de Cleveland,” and musician Pepe Rivera provided entertainment as the guests enjoyed and danced the night away, commemorating an occasion all were proud to be a part of. 

However, the Gala was not all celebration; reality set in, the five year promise has ended and the well known Board president, Angie Martínez, plans to step down, fostering a solemn moment among the guests.

Promising not to cry, Leandry shared his thoughts.

“People have come up to me asking did I get her a plaque or something, I said no, because today is not goodbye,” said Leandry.  “She’s here until February; today is a day to celebrate.”

On the Internet:  http://lorainelcentro.com/

Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/08/11 13:11:38 -0800.





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