LEOMINSTER, Mass. — Event organizers had hoped for sunshine for the Spanish American Center’s 50th anniversary party, but Saturday’s rainstorms may have done a better job of highlighting the significant impact the local nonprofit has had on community members.
Despite the downpour, dozens of local residents crowded under tents set up in the center’s parking lot to eat, dance and celebrate more than half a century of community service.
“They really serve a purpose here,” said Jim Jancietis, a French Hill resident who lives a block away from the Spanish American Center.
Jancietis said recognizing the important services provided by the center had been reason enough for him to brave the wet weather Saturday.
“We’ve been having plenty of fun here today,” he said.
Initially opening as a resource for Puerto Rican citizens moving to Massachusetts in the 1960s, the Spanish American Center has since blossomed into a multifaceted support network, helping local residents of all ethnic backgrounds with issues ranging from hunger, unemployment and coping with the aftermath of domestic violence.
“The mission of our agency has always been to better the quality of life for all, so that every person lives in a safe and prosperous society,” center Director Neddy Latimer said in her Saturday morning speech. “Today, we celebrate the joys and accomplishments we have had during the years.”
As Mickey Guzman, the center’s family advocate, explained, the area’s immigrant population has only grown over the years, further increasing the number of people center staff are regularly working with.
“There has been a population growth of Hispanics over the past 50 years,” he said. “The Spanish American Center has provided services to individuals from all the 20 Spanish-speaking countries.”
Representatives from many of the other social service agencies center staff work with on a frequent basis were also present to celebrate the center’s anniversary.
Community Health Connections outreach administrator Zuly Fernandez-Preville was among those enjoying the party.
“It’s been great. We’ve been talking to a lot of people, meeting people we might work with later, and listening to this great music,” she said.
Fernandez-Preville was accompanied by Yarisbeth Guzman, a marketing consultant with ICK Assurance Home Health Care.
“We want to support the people here and this 50th anniversary,” she said. “They are great and genuinely help the community. Anything we can do to support them, we want to do it.”
Information from: Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg, Mass.), http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com