Henderson County is home to a diverse and growing community of people who identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to 2020 Census data, representing nearly 11% of the county’s population. Despite this, Latino communities experience unique challenges and barriers to becoming fully engaged in the local community. Current and past discriminatory policies in immigration, law enforcement and housing, as well as language barriers, poverty, education disparities, lack of local representation, and limitations to sustainable employment create hardship. This is especially true for undocumented residents who often choose not to seek needed care or assistance, fearing deportation.
El Centro of Henderson County, also known as the Latino Advocacy Coalition (LAC), is a Latinx-operated community center that serves to alleviate these challenges and create a more inclusive community for Latinxs by providing free and low-cost services, amplifying grassroots leaders, and bringing people together to access community resources. Established in 2001 as Henderson County’s first Latino community center, El Centro (LAC) meets the needs of the Latinx community through three departments: Advocacy, Education and Mental Health.
The Advocacy department creates accessibility for Latinx people by offering services such as document translation and notarization, community event planning, government relations, petitioning, referrals, and case management. Using volunteer teachers, the Education department equips people of all ages with critical skills and knowledge by offering K-12 tutoring, English and Spanish language learning classes, trade courses such as plumbing and electrical, citizenship exam classes, college counseling, children’s summer camps, and more. The Mental Health department increases local access to care for Latinx people by offering counseling for individuals, couples, and families, with specialization in cognitive, trauma, and grief therapy.
With support from Dogwood, El Centro (LAC) is expanding its three-person staff by hiring a Fundraising and Financial Coordinator. With this new role, they will have the capacity to leverage new partnerships, coordinate fundraising and grant writing, and create broad fundraising campaigns that will give way to new programs dedicated to improving the lives of local Latinx people experiencing structural marginalization.