Non-profit serving Twin Cities Latinos to close downby Jon Collins, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Gabriella Gomez volunteered Thursday to help recent immigrants find job opportunities at La Conexion de las Americas on Lake Street in Minneapolis.
"I was helping this woman, she was just like, 'God bless you, thank you,'" Gomez said. "Just hearing her say God bless you, it just made me a little sad, knowing that this resource center that's so helpful to the community is leaving."
That same day, La Conexion de las Americas board of directors sent a bilingual email to supporters announcing their decision to close the non-profit.
Formerly named the Resource Center of the Americas, the non-profit provided opportunities for cultural exchange between English and Spanish-speakers and served the Latino population for almost three decades in Minneapolis.
The center has struggled to obtain enough grants to support the budget, which was $275,000 this year, Executive Director Franklin Briceno said.
"The need is there, our programs are very busy with participants," Briceno said. "But with the financial condition of the country and the recession, we're in this position to have to close down."
Programs, like cooking or Spanish classes, offered by the center will wind down through spring and summer.
Board co-chair Christina Jennings said the board decided to close, even though there still a little money left in the bank.
"We don't want to wait until we can't pay our payroll; we want to make sure we can meet all our obligations to funders, to staff to our members," Jennings said. "And we also wanted to make sure that we could do an orderly transition of programs."
The organization formed in the 1983 in response to the U.S.-backed wars in Central America.
"It really came out of a strong commitment from local people to trying to educate themselves, educate others and then have an impact on US government policy in the region," Jennings said. "From there it grew to a deep commitment to providing a connection between people in and from Latin America and with those folks locally."
In 1999, the center moved from the University of Minnesota campus to a building on Minnehaha Avenue in south Minneapolis, submerging the organization in the area's growing Latino population and shifting their mission to allow more collaboration with the Latino community.
The Resource Center of the Americas merged last year with an organization that provided services to the area's Latino community. The emerging organization changed its name to La Conexion de las Americas.
Jennings said the center plans to find other groups to host programs like the Spanish classes.
"People put so much into it, and you don't want to feel like that's been lost," Jennings said. "The good news is that hopefully, hopefully we can continue that legacy, even if it's not in our own organization. "