Señor Bernal was born in the Mexican state of Jalisco, served in the Mexican military and owned his own business in Mexico, but was forced to close it because of health repercussions. At 63, he had moved to Seattle and was working while supporting his grandchildren and his wife who has a heart condition and cannot work. When the interest rate on his house rose from 9% to 11.25%, Señor Bernal realized he simply did not earn enough to make the payments. His son found El Centro’s Homeownership Program online and so Señor Bernal came to El Centro for help.
El Centro helped Señor Bernal to work with his bank to complete a budget, write a hardship letter, and provide proof of income, a difficult task since he only earned cash from his employer. El Centro succeeded in helping Señor Bernal reduce his interest rates and avoid foreclosure and continues to work with him as he faces more hardship. In these harsh economic times, El Centro helps Señor Bernal and other struggling families survive. <
Lucio is an immigrant who came to the United States more than ten years ago and moved to Seattle over two years ago. He has been coming to El Centro’s Latino Hot Meal Program several times a week, depending on his work schedule at a local restaurant, for the past year.
Lucio has noticed the increase in people waiting in line for a meal and the new faces, but points out that “for a lot of us immigrants we have been surviving day by day. The economic crisis is not news to us.”
José, a Honduran immigrant, agrees. “There’s no work; I come here when there’s no work.”
Lucio appreciates the communal atmosphere at El Centro and commented that “other places give you a meal and then they make you leave.” Here, there is time to sit and read the newspaper, chat with friends and go back for seconds and sometimes even thirds.
The Latino Hot Meal will provide at least 14,000 hot meals and a welcoming environment to over a thousand people like Lucio and Jose in 2009.
Dorothy, an elder in the Seattle Community, has been remarkable throughout much of El Centro’s history because of her commitment to the Food Bank. She began to volunteer at El Centro’s Food Bank in 1985, assisting in the day-to-day activities. Dorothy even went above and beyond her volunteer duties to deliver food to various members of the community.
Dorothy enjoyed volunteering at El Centro because she loved to work with people of different ethnicities and backgrounds. She was inspired by Roberto Masetas and his compassion and concern for community members. Dorothy appreciated that Maestas told everyone what is going on in the community and how to treat one another with respect and dignity.”
Dorothy no longer volunteers with the Food Bank, but she is still a part of the El Centro family. She comes to El Centro weekly for exercise classes as a member of the Senior Wellness Program.
Tavo is a kitchen manager at a local restaurant who lives in White Center, Seattle. He left his home state of Michoacan, Mexico in December of 1989 and since then has lived in Seattle. He first heard of El Centro from his older sister who had attended El Centro’s Citizenship Program four years ago.
Tavo’s own involvement with El Centro began as he sought assistance with the complicated naturalization application.
“There aren’t many places that will just help you out. It’s nice to have a place I know I can go to help me find answers.” After Tavo’s application for citizenship was accepted, he knew exactly where to go for support leading up to his test date.
Tavo is excited about how, as a US citizen, employers will view him differently and he will easily be able to visit his family in Michocan. El Centro’s Citizenship Program aims to help Tavo and all the other participants achieve their goal of citizenship.
Jaime is a West Seattle High School Class of 2009 graduate who credits El Centro de la Raza with helping him succeed.
“Seattle Team for Youth was extremely motivational for me. Participating in this program pushed me to complete high school and to get involved in programs that I wouldn’t have usually gotten involved with.
Belinda was the mentor that helped me get on track with my high school credits when I was really behind. She introduced the PASS program to my friend Ayleen and me. And honestly if it weren’t for her picking me up and taking me get informed the programs I could do to catch up, I wouldn’t have graduated with my class.
I am truly grateful I was introduced to such a beneficial program and case manager that cared for us. I’m glad that a program like that exists to help students in high school who are having a difficult time, as it helped me. Don’t let programs like these pass you by, if it weren’t for this program, I wouldn’t have graduated and have the amazing job that I have as a dance instructor.”
Juanita is a donor who has benefited from El Centro de la Raza and wants to show her gratitude by giving back.
“Because of organizations like El Centro de la Raza, I went from poverty to graduating from college to now a thirty year teacher. Thank you for your work!”