Esperanza, Inc. (meaning “hope”), began in the early 1980s as a community project to improve the educational opportunities for Hispanics by motivating and recognizing academic achievement through scholarships. As Ohio’s only nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion and advancement of Hispanic educational achievement, its founders recognized the need to expand the services by adding programs to address more of the educational needs of the community. Esperanza awarded its first college scholarship in 1983. Since awarding just one college scholarship that first year, Esperanza has grown steadily to where it is now able to award over 100 college scholarships every year through the support of corporations, foundations, and individual donors.
The mission of the Tejano Center for Community Concerns is to develop education, social, health, and community institutions that empower families to transform their lives.
The Tejano Center for Community Concerns will continuously strive to be the premier nonprofit organization in the state of Texas.
The Tejano Center for Community Concerns (Tejano Center) was established in 1992 on Houston’s East End, a predominantly Hispanic populated area. By serving as an agent for change that empowered neighborhood residents, the Tejano Center’s goal was to improve lives and create a sustained network of support and opportunity within the community.
The early Tejano Center pioneers realized that the way to respond to community needs was to provide a comprehensive array of social, educational, economic, and housing services. Since its beginnings, the Tejano Center’s programs and services have progressively expanded in large part through strategic partnerships with such entities as the City of Houston, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Texas Education Agency, Baylor College of Medicine, the Harris County Juvenile Probation Office, and the National Council of La Raza. In 2002, becoming aware of similar needs in the greater Brownsville, Texas area, the Tejano Center expanded its programs into that South Texas area by adding a fourth campus to its Raul Yzaguirre Schools for Success.
Every year, since its inception, LCDA—the SER Affiliate in the State of Oklahoma—convenes at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City to recognize community partners that further the mission of the organization. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019, LCDA celebrated the 28th LCDA Annual Award by selling out the event center. Close to 650 community partners gathered to recognize the year’s winners as well as hear about the new expansion of services into Tulsa, Oklahoma – the second largest city in the State who hosts the second largest Latino population.
The event began with a proclamation from the Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, followed by a Latino-inspired lunch, and ending with 12 awards. Among the many dignitaries at the Luncheon, was the Consuls of Guatemala and Mexico. The event also served as a LCDA fundraiser.
The Latino Community Development Agency (LCDA) is a nonprofit social services organization founded in 1991 to address the unique needs of Spanish-speaking newcomers in central Oklahoma. The organization’s mission: To improve the quality of life in the Latino community through education, leadership, services and advocacy. No other social services provider in the state has the same level of program depth, experience or collaborative connections or offers all of their programs bilingually. Last year, LCDA served nearly 50,000 members of the community.
Paty Funegra of La Cocina VA has raised $2 million to turn her community kitchen into an incubator, a café and a place of hope for struggling immigrants.
By Collen DeBiase – The Story Exchange
It’s a big moment: Paty Funegra is getting ready to move her kitchen out of the basement.
Funegra is the founder of La Cocina VA, a social enterprise that helps unemployed Latino immigrants find jobs in the food industry by teaching them food and language skills. For the past five years, she has run the culinary-training organization from the lower floor of Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington, Virgina. But now, she’s ready to scale — and recently raised $2 million to open the Zero Barriers Training & Entrepreneurship Center, which will include a state-of-the-art kitchen incubator, a community cafe, and, she hopes, the promise of a successful future for newly arrived immigrants.
An immigrant herself, the Peruvian-born Funegra says she feels it’s her responsibility to help the vulnerable — especially now. In the wake of the El Paso shootings, and amid anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Trump administration, “we see a lot of fear in our communities,” she says.
“My position is to hands-on jump in and do something about it. Don’t fight back that rhetoric with words but with actions.”
Learning the Best Approach
It took Funegra a while to figure out how to best help immigrants.
She grew up in Lima during a turbulent time of violence, poverty and narcotics trafficking. In 2007, she moved to the U.S. after falling in love with an American (the relationship didn’t work out) and eventually took a job with the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C. While the bank finances economic development projects in Latin America, Funegra felt disconnected, being so far away. “I was never able to experience how families in Nicaragua, or in Brazil, or back in Peru, were being the beneficiaries of these investments,” she says. “So I started looking around, here in the D.C. region, for opportunities to get involved with my Latino community.”
Funegra became a volunteer at DC Central Kitchen, a 30-year-old community kitchen that helps unemployed adults learn restaurant-industry skills while also donating the meals that they cook to the homeless or hungry. “So I went there to chop carrots and onions,” she recalls, noticing that the kitchen mostly served the African-American community. That was her “a-ha” moment. She asked Executive Director Michael Curtin if she could replicate the community kitchen idea, but this time serving Latinos. “Mike was very generous, accepting right away,” she says with a laugh, but “he didn’t realize that I was serious about it.”
Not only was she serious, Funegra launched La Cocina VA a short six months later, while still working full-time. “I didn’t have $5,000 back then” to hire a lawyer, she says, so she took online courses on how to start a nonprofit. Then she needed to raise more money and find partners. “I remember I was skipping lunches and breakfast at work, just to go and knock on different doors.”
The missing piece — and it was a big one — was an inexpensive kitchen for hands-on preparation, plus classrooms for English classes. Fortunately, Funegra knocked on the door of Mount Olivet, which took an interest in her idea and donated the use of its basement. “This has been an amazing partner,” Funegra says. She quit her day job, drained her savings to print her first promotional materials, and began her new career.
Changing Lives Through Food
Since 2014, over 120 students have taken part in the fully-funded 16-week bilingual training program, in which they take classes on food prep, nutrition, sanitation and kitchen vocabulary. Graduates receive certification through Northern Virginia Community College. Some 85% have found jobs in the industry, and graduates’ average hourly wage is $14 per hour, nearly double the state’s minimum wage of $7.25, according to La Cocina’s 2018 annual report.
Funegra has signed up a number of corporate partners, including food giant Nestlé. “La Cocina VA is providing students the skills they need to succeed in a huge and important sector of the economy: food,” the company said in a Medium post. With some 1.46 million people in the U.S. working in the food and beverage industry, Nestle added that it’s “thrilled to connect with trained talent.” Other partners include Hilton and Whole Foods.
Funegra says the majority of students are women immigrants from Central and South America, and many have been victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking. With La Cocina VA graduates now holding down jobs and making a collective $2.6 million in salaries, she hopes their success inspires other immigrants “to look at the future with hope and with light.”
The new center, which is scheduled to open this coming March, would triple the program’s current capacity, allowing 120 trainees to graduate each year. It will be located on the first floor of an affordable housing complex. The cafe is expected to generate revenue for La Cocina VA, while the incubator would help aspiring food entrepreneurs test out ideas. “We have dreamers that are dreaming about starting businesses, especially women from the Latino community,” Funegra says. “I am immensely proud that now, in the very near future, we will be able to support them to … create jobs and to contribute to the economy.”
Funegra believes her own experience as an immigrant has fueled La Cocina VA’s growth. “All those moments of challenges and obstacles, and barriers, and lack of clarity of the future, built the skills that I have now,” she says.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AWARDS $85.9 MILLION FOR REENTRY PROJECTS
WASHINGTON, DC – In its latest effort to ensure that individuals returning to the labor force from the justice system have the opportunity to gain meaningful employment, the U.S. Department of Labor today announced approximately $85.9 million in Reentry Project grants awarded to 45 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. The Reentry Projects will serve either young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who have been involved in the juvenile or adult criminal justice system – including those who did not complete high school – or adults ages 25 and older who were previously involved in the adult criminal justice system.
Administered by the Department’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), the Reentry Project grants protect community safety by ensuring that successful participants enter employment and/or education; become productive, responsible, and law-abiding members of society; maintain long-term employment; and sustain a stable residence. President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Address called for an ongoing commitment to reform efforts that prevent crime, facilitate successful reentry, and reduce recidivism.
The Department awarded these grants to a combination of rural and urban projects located in high-crime, high-poverty communities. Awardees offer a range of services based on current evidence and proven research, as well as promising emerging practices.
See the full list of organizations that received the grant awards HERE
SER-Jobs for Progress, San Joaquin Valley, Inc. (SER-SJV) was incorporated in 1973 as a 501(c)(3) community-based non-profit organization. The agency provides affordable housing, and educational, employment and training services in 17 counties—Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Madera, Mariposa, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Tuolumne, and Ventura—throughout California and maintains a corporate office in Fresno, California. The agency’s mission is to provide individuals the opportunity to become self-sustaining, obtain quality education, employment and training opportunities, childcare, affordable housing, and other services that may benefit the community as a whole.
SER-SJV’s 10,000 square foot corporate office in Fresno is leased by private and non-profit entities including SER’s programs, program and administrative staff. Revenues received from the leases are unrestricted and mainly used to upgrade and maintain the facility. https://www.sercalifornia.org/