HOLA leads the way at the Hispanic Community Center

PAINESVILLE, Ohio – An organization that provides services and fills the gaps for one of Northeast Ohio’s fastest growing demographics will soon have a place of its own. HOLA, a nonprofit organization that provides services and support to Hispanics and Latinos, on Tuesday inaugurated its new Hispanic Community Center and Commercial Kitchen, a hub for the organization’s support services, offers of vocational training and business incubator.

HOLA, which started 20 years ago as an informal group of Lake County Hispanic women who wanted to develop the area’s Latin American community, bought a run-down old auto garage on North State Street near downtown de Painesville in 2019. After years of planning, fundraising and soliciting donations and grants, the brick building will undergo a complete renovation estimated at $ 2 million.

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A central hub for the organization’s efforts is badly needed as Painesville’s Hispanic population continues to grow. According to 2020 census data, Painesville has more Hispanics and Latinos than all other cities in Lake County combined.

“For many of those 20 years that we have worked with the community, we have often struggled. We struggled to find our place, ”said HOLA Executive Director Veronica Dahlberg, whose parents immigrated from Mexico and Hungary. “We’ve had meetings in some of the most unlikely places here in Painesville. The community of Painesville has grown so much since the late 80’s and early 90’s. Some schools are 50% Hispanic. We really needed a home base to expand our programs and services to the community.

HOLA’s services run the gamut and have proven to be particularly critical during the throes of the pandemic. Overall, HOLA’s services help build a safety net of supportive services for individuals and families who are often excluded from mainstream services. The new community center will help improve and expand the organization’s offerings, especially in vocational training, GED courses and ESL programs.

“We also do a lot of immigration work, including preparing people for citizenship and reuniting people with their families, which has really been our bread and butter as an organization and what we are really for. known, ”Dahlberg said. One of the many people who have received support services through HOLA is Esperanza Pacheco-Padilla. In addition to helping her support her cleaning business, HOLA has also helped her navigate the country’s complex immigration and legal system. Padilla recently obtained US citizenship.

“It’s a dream come true,” Padilla said through a translator. “HOLA is a place of sun, a ray of light. I’ve been with HOLA from the start and it’s amazing to be a part of this organization.

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The $ 2 million community center, which also includes a commercial kitchen space for Hispanic micro-businesses, was funded by several public grants and private donations from philanthropic organizations. Representatives of these organizations joined city and county leaders for Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

“I have no words for it. It’s so humbling and heartwarming to have people like the Chief of Police here and so many in our community who just want to show up and support us, ”Dahlberg said. “What this center represents are opportunities to improve the academic results of our children and themselves in a space of trust.”

Construction is expected to be completed by mid-2022.

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