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The Daily Tar Heel

Central need for services: Closing of El Centro Latino unfortunate; community must work hard to bring services back

The Orange County Latino community lost a major ally when El Centro Latino closed its doors last week.

Since it opened, El Centro provided a wealth of opportunities for local Latinos, including employment assistance and classes in English as a Second Language.

But El Centro Latino board member Paula Gildner said the most important goal of El Centro was to provide a place where local Latinos could go to socialize and speak Spanish in the comforting presence of their peers.

Although El Centro has closed its doors, the organization itself remains intact, at least until a January meeting.

Ivan Parra, a member of the North Carolina Latino Coalition and an organizer for Orange County Justice United, a coalition of local neighborhoods and groups like El Centro, said El Centro will be sorely missed.

Noting a “tremendous community need” for a center that can both provide resources to and protect the rights of local Latinos, he said the N.C. Latino Coalition will stand firmly behind any local effort to help Orange County Latinos.

El Centro’s Web site lists a number of sponsors both large and small, but sponsors alone cannot prop up an organization. Groups like El Centro require support from both their target community and the community at large.

Whether that support is in the form of donations, volunteer hours or other, less tangible methods, it is drastically needed to help out this deserving local community.

The first step in supporting El Centro will be to attend its January meeting, open to the entire community, to better determine the Latino community’s needs.

El Centro has been an important part of the Latino community in the area for years.

Hopefully, community leaders can come together and create a similar organization to fill the vacuum left by El Centro’s closure.

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