CFC, WSEM, and El Barrio host Taste Latino and present Amistad Awards
By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent
El Barrio Workforce Development Center held its fourth annual Taste Latino: Party Like It’s 2012 benefit on March 1, 2012 at Nighttown.
Appropriately themed for the Mayan’s 2012 prophecy, the event celebrated its corporate partners who contributed to the organization’ success and presented Amistad Awards to three partner employees. Three-hundred attendees enjoyed music by Noel Quintana’s Latin Crew, dined on authentic Latin cuisine, and enjoyed the artwork of local Guatemalan artist Hector Castellanos.
“This year’s event is a fun take on the Mayan end of the world craze,” explained Ingrid Angel, director of El Barrio. “The Mayans didn’t really believe the world was going to end, but that 2012 would signal a new era and a time of change.
“Likewise, at El Barrio, we believe that 2012 can be a new era for job growth in Cleveland, but we need the support of the community to help our fellow Clevelanders in need secure self-sustaining employment by supporting this event.”
El Barrio is a program of the West Side Ecumenical Ministry, a subsidiary corporation of Center for Families and Children. Proceeds from the event benefit El Barrio, which for more than 20 years has helped individuals in need from all backgrounds obtain self-sustaining jobs through supportive services, free training, and/or educational programs.
Simon López, Senior Director of Workforce Development at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), said El Barrio is one of the best models in the country that has continued to exceed in performance, development and quality of their program.”I think they are ready to grow and become a vocal advocate for the public,” said López. He said NCLR is a proud supporter of the agency, “We are excited by what they have been able to do.”
El Barrio’s performance has been steady through the economic rollercoaster and the agency has helped 400 individuals find employment, and managed more than 800 cases in 2011. “Every two weeks, we have a new group of students going through our program in hopes of obtaining employment so I know the need still exists,” said Angel. “Luckily for them and for us, we have the support of some amazing corporate partners that believe in the quality of the job candidates we produce and some come exclusively to El Barrio when hiring for their companies.”
This year’s corporate award went to the Embassy Suites Downtown for the record number of hires from El Barrio’s clients. This is the first year the Amistad Award was presented and Angel said its purpose is to honor corporate partner staff members who go beyond the call of duty to assist clients and the community. This year’s honorees were Michael Bosch from Marriott Hotel East and Luis Vásquez and Scott Sypniewski from Home Depot.
El Barrio Staff, Melissa Russoniello, Alia Almashni, John Coyne, with artist Hector Castellanos Lara
Simon López of NCLR and Ingrid Angel of El Barrio at the 4th annual Taste Latino fundraiser event
Staff of Metro Health, a corporate partner
Hector Castellanos Lara with wife Delia
Angel said the stories El Barrio staff hear of success, friendship and devotion to help others are heartwarming. “We want people to know that corporate has a heart.”
López said El Barrio is unique as it works with employers to assess needs and train worked based on the market’s needs. He said the agency is ready to expand the certifications, services and programs it offers which include: full bilingual services in job readiness, skills training, basic needs from food banks to clothing. Classes on basic math, money management and savings are also offered as part of the curriculum.
Corporate partners also provide workforce development workshops and invest time in training their potential employees. Staff also follows up with participants for six months after they have been hired to ensure their transition is smooth.
The Center for Families and Children (CFC), West Side Ecumenical Ministry (WSEM), and El Barrio have joined together to increase their impact on the community. CFC is the parent corporation and WSEM is a subsidiary corporation. The newly combined organization provides opportunities and hope for children, adults and families living in poverty in our community.
Angel said the agencies are working together to help the refugee communities; “There has been an increase desire to relocate refugees in the region and our job placement rate is significantly higher with this population.”
According to Angel, with 14 locations in the greater Cleveland area, the focus remains on preserving and enhancing critical services, giving greater voice to the issues that impact the people served, and helping align and focus the community’s best thinking, assets and collective action on its toughest challenges. To learn more, visit c4fc.org or www.wsem.org.