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El Centro Hispano announces program to increase job opportunities for Latinx workers


Mauricio Solano, the economic development manager at El Centro Hispano, poses in the nonprofit's new ToolBank on Friday, Feb. 18. 

El Centro Hispano, a Triangle-based nonprofit that advocates for equity and inclusion of Latinx communities, announced its ToolBank program, which aims to provide economic opportunities for day laborers, on Feb. 12.

The ToolBank allows for workers who are part of the nonprofit's Casa for Employment & Leadership program to rent tools at a low cost.

The CEL initiative advocates for the rights of Latinx day laborers and helps them find work opportunities with higher pay. Through the new ToolBank, workers will be able to rent from the program's collection, which includes 40 tools.

Mauricio Solano, El Centro Hispano’s economic development manager, said access to tools is necessary for improving workers' abilities to take on new jobs.

"In my area, the main idea is to connect workers with employers," Solano said. "And that is the big idea, but the first goal is to increase or improve the income and the economic condition for the Latin community."

Originally established in 1992 as the Hispanic Resource Center, El Centro Hispano has worked in Hispanic, Latino and Latinx communities throughout North Carolina, focusing on education, economic development, community health, community support and civic and community participation.

El Centro Hispano opened its Carrboro branch in 2010. Mayor Damon Seils said the nonprofit has been able to support community members with finding job opportunities.

"Their work has been especially important in engaging workers in Carrboro who have needed some support in finding work and being protected from being abused by some employers in terms of wage theft," he said.

Solano said that through his work with El Centro Hispano, he has talked with workers who said they were mistreated by employers.

"Some workers say, ‘The employers don't pay me, didn't respect me,'" Solano said.

He said the ToolBank program will make it easier for workers to pursue jobs where they are properly compensated, as many of these jobs require them to bring their own tools, which can be a financial burden.

Many of these tools can also be difficult to store, but the ToolBank equipment is all housed at the Carrboro branch of El Centro Hispano.

"The ToolBank will really provide a unique opportunity to cater to the needs of the Latinx community of Carrboro and Chapel Hill," Jon Hartman-Brown, economic development director for the Town of Carrboro, said.

Hartman-Brown said he expects the Town to continue its partnership with El Centro Hispano to strengthen community economic development. The Town helps financially support the nonprofit's Carrboro branch and its CEL program.

PNC Bank also contributed to the program, Solano said. It provided funding to buy tools, allowing El Centro Hispano to increase the quantity and range of tools available.

Community members also raised funds for the ToolBank program.

Marilyn Alexander, who has volunteered at El Centro Hispano since 2001, said she raised around $800 to help build the shed where the tools are kept.

The fundraising initiatives included hosting meals at the Community Church of Chapel Hill, and the shed itself was built by workers who are members of El Centro Hispano’s CEL initiative.

Solano said the ultimate goal for El Centro Hispano’s Economic Development Department is for more Latinx workers to improve their income and financial literacy, as well as start their own businesses.

Solano expects the program to expand to other cities in Orange, Wake and Durham counties. He also hopes for both the ToolBank program and the nonprofit to reach more Latinx community members in the Triangle.

"We are a strength (for) the Latino community," Solano said.

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