El Centro Hispano to raise funds for Workers’ Center

The Carrboro location of El Centro Hispano is about to get bigger. Representatives from the nonprofit organization and other partner organizations, such as the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center and Orange County Justice United, held a conference call on Nov. 17 to begin planning a fundraiser for a building expansion. Construction on the current building is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks, according to Carrboro-Chapel Hill Office Coordinator Natalia Lenis.

Natalia Lenis, Carrboro-Chapel hill office coordinator, stands in the room that will be expanded to accommodate the Workers Center in the El Centro Hispano building.
Natalia Lenis, Carrboro-Chapel hill office coordinator, stands in the room that will become the Workers’ Center at the El Centro Hispano’s location. (Staff photo by Liz Tablazon)

“We are part of that task force trying to figure out which channels we were going to use to start a fundraiser,” Lenis said.

The Rev. Nathan Alan Hollister, board chairman of the Human Rights Center, said that the funds will go toward building the Workers’ Center. It would give day workers a safe place to start the morning before they get rides to different work sites in the town.

“We have a commitment to the rights and dignity of the day laborers in our community,” Hollister said. “They deserve a place that is safe, comfortable and empowering from which to work.”

El Centro Hispano’s website includes a description of the center as a community-based organization that reaches out to the Latino population in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Durham. It offers support services to help Latino residents with employment, legal services, tax services, cultural promotions and domestic and sexual violence prevention. It also offers English as a Second Language classes, health screenings and education, as well as programs for leadership development.

Proposed additions to the building include a second restroom and a new entrance.

“We need a ramp,” Lenis said. “And also an emergency exit to the rest of the office. … It’s a minor upgrade that we have to do. All that requires labor – plumbing and electrical things. That’s why we need to raise some funds for it.”

The center helps potential employees get connected to managers who are looking to hire new people.

“So if someone’s looking for a landscaper, we will be able to provide a landscaper,” Lenis said. She said that although someone may find a job, he or she may need additional training for it.

“The idea with that is to create the database and provide more classes for them,” she said.

She explained that the center helps equip members of the Latino community with the resources that they need to find jobs and do their jobs well.

Lenis said that the fundraising committee is considering launching an online campaign so donors can directly give to El Centro Hispano.

El Centro Hispano doesn’t limit community outreach to classes and programs offered inside the building. Paula Espinosa and Elda Sierra volunteer with the Orange County ABC program, supporting a campaign to educate the community about drugs and alcohol abuse. Espinosa explores the most effective ways of reaching the community and specific neighborhoods that need the information most.

“We’re thinking of bringing a mobile to the communities to bring more information about the alcohol and drugs and the different services that El Centro provides to the community,” Espinosa said. “Since we’re so new, many people don’t know that we’re here, or they don’t have transportation to come.”

Sierra started volunteering at El Centro Hispano after she heard about the drug and alcohol education program while volunteering as a translator with the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service.

“I’m really interested in helping Hispanic people and immigrants,” she said.

Sierra said that before she came to the United States, she wasn’t aware of how much people were in need.

“I start thinking that it was a good idea to help my people,” she said. “People who need help and can’t afford it or, for example, in this case, some people don’t speak English, so it’s a good idea.”

Espinosa said she looks forward to seeing El Centro Hispano accomplish their goals through projects.

“We’re still in the beginning. … I think the Workers’ Center is very valuable and something that the community has been needing for a while.”

Author of the article

Liz is a staff writer for the Carrboro Commons. She is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.