Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Hispanic aid center discussed

By Jennifer Edwards, jedwards@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — A family resource center for Hispanics will be established to help that growing population become acclimated.

        That is the first goal of a “West Chester Si,” a coalition formed in May to help cope with the rising number of Hispanics — a 342 percent increase in the past decade — and to promote diversity in this booming suburb. About 20 community and Hispanic leaders and other concerned citizens are members.

        Run by volunteers, the center would be a place for Hispanics to seek help about basic issues such as medical care and school enrollment for their children.

        “It will look more like somebody's living room than an office,” Trustee Catherine Stoker said. “It will be a place families know they can go for help.”

        Township administrator Dave Gully and other members of a coalition subcommittee for the family resource center agreed at a Monday meeting to investigate how to start such a facility.

        It most likely will emerge out of existing resources. A decision hasn't been made on whether a new facility would require building for the need, but everyone involved with the coalition agrees something needs to be done as soon as possible.

        Mr. Gully said Butler County's Head Start and job and family services departments could be good avenues because they already have family resource programs for Hispanics.

        Lourdes Ward is director of Reach Out Lakota, a food and clothing pantry serving West Chester and Liberty townships. She said there is a dire need for such a center because many Hispanics rely on the pantry for such help.

        The township has 54,895 residents, according to the 2000 Census, a 38.3 percent increase from 39,703 residents in 1990. But the Hispanic population rose 342 percent — from 247 residents in 1990 to 1,085 in 2000.

        “I feel right now like everyone is using me as the resource center at Reach Out, so I am looking forward to this center,” said Ms. Ward, who also is a member of the coalition. “There are resources out there, but there aren't resources necessarily in Spanish for these people. That's where the challenge lies.”

        Hispanics stumble onto obstacles at nearly every turn, she said. Even something as simple as enrolling their children in school becomes a difficult task if there is no one who speaks Spanish at the school or the enrollment forms aren't in Spanish.

        “There are just so many vital things that are essential to people that aren't in Spanish, so these people aren't able to utilize them,” she said.

        Coalition meetings are open to the public. The next will be at noon Sept. 16 at West Chester Township offices off Muhlhauser Road in Union Centre.


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