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Nonprofit organizations often serve communities that face economic challenges even in the best of times.

And now, those challenges have been compounded.

Centro Hispano of Dane County (Centro), the leading social service provider for Latinos in Dane County and a hub of the community, has certainly felt the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about.

“This crisis has uncovered a lot of divides and inequities that were already present for communities of color,” states Karen Coller-Menendez, Centro’s executive director.

As stated on the Centro website, the Latinx community is uniquely vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis: 70% are renters, 68% live in multiunit dwellings, 34% fall below the poverty line, and almost two out of every five work in the service industry in Dane County.

These statistics point to some real concerns, but Centro has been able to adapt to the unique challenge of the pandemic. “It’s been impressive to see our team’s resilience — adapting and finding new and innovative ways to do things,” says Nina Gehan, Centro’s director of advancement.

Centro has moved its programming from in-person — still its preferred method — to virtual, using a variety of platforms to ensure its community still has access to the services they need, from employment services to its immigration assistance fund.

“Everything is virtual. We have had to ramp up our digital capacity for our programs. We have taken the opportunity to be savvier with social media, virtual platforms, and over-the-phone support,” Coller-Menendez says.

“Not having the physical engagement is a struggle because our community gets so much out of it. Our staff has done an amazing job of making sure we are successful at community engagement, but it’s hard — we still want to see each other.”

While the past few months have been stressful, they are proud of the way they were able to move quickly to help their communities, thanks in large part to their foresight in developing strong ties and engaging the community the right way over the last several years.

“When it comes to questions about school, immigration, the city, or the census, people seek out Centro to answer those questions,” Gehan points out. “Centro isn’t Centro without the people, from our staff, to our families, to our community partners — the people who continue to be a part of our work and our community even in a virtual setting.”

If you are interested in learning more about Centro Hispano of Dane County and its incredible mission, visit Centro’s website at www.micentro.org, where you can make a donation and sign up for its newsletter. To see what Centro is up to, follow it on social media at www.facebook.com/centro.hispano.5.

 

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