Vallejo Latino community center celebrates anniversary with party, award
By Dianne de Guzman, Vallejo Times-Herald
Posted: 05/01/15, 8:13 PM PDT
Mina Diaz will have two things to celebrate at Diaz & Loera Centro Latino’s party Sunday afternoon: One year of serving the community and receiving United Way of the Bay Area’s ‘Achieve Award.”
“We’re very excited that United Way considered the centro and what they do for this award,” Diaz said by phone on Wednesday. “I’m humbled and honored to receive this and I’m blessed that I work with a wonderful group of volunteers that really, really care about Vallejo.”
The award, which the center received Friday, serves to cap off a year that Diaz and others have worked to keep the center running and thriving. The center works to support the Latino community by hosting informational meetings, groups and workshops on various topics — in Spanish — concerning Vallejo residents. Diaz said the center has hosted everything from an immigration workshop featuring attorneys giving consultations — which drew a crowd of 150 attendees — to holding study groups to help prep people to pass their driver’s license exam.
The organization originally opened in 2007, offering many of the same services as now, but closed in 2011. Diaz supported the center then with money she earned as a real estate agent, but when the real estate market crashed, Diaz closed the center and took a job in Contra Costa County instead. During the years the center was closed, Diaz said she prepared herself on how nonprofits worked so that she could reopen the center and prevent it from shutting down a second time.
This time around, Diaz said the center “grew tremendously” in the year it has been open.
“The centro is taking off in the same way we first envisioned,” Diaz said.
Sunday’s anniversary party will be held at Broadway and Illinois streets from 12 to 6 p.m., and will be part Cinco de Mayo party — with live entertainment, food, crafts and face painting for kids — and part community event, featuring 21 nonprofit organizations. Bay Area Legal Aide, Solano County Public Health, La Clinica and Touro University are among the groups scheduled to attend. It’s a mix of celebration and community activism that is fitting for the center’s work, Diaz said.
Reflecting on the past year, Diaz was pleased with the work the center has accomplished, but was already looking forward to the task ahead: Finally filing for nonprofit status, creating more programs for the community, expanding its hours and finding a permanent home for the center, which is temporarily housed at a rental hall that is loaned out to Diaz for community events.
“Eventually I would like to see the centro with a permanent location, with more volunteers
who can be there more hours and have equipment and furniture that we don’t have to
move around,” Diaz said. “We’ll get there, I don’t have any doubt.”
For now, Diaz is working with volunteers and local groups on various meetings to help benefit the Latino community. On Tuesday, the center held a meeting with Code Enforcement in Spanish to show attendees city resources available to them as homeowners. Diaz is looking forward to the start of a support group for Spanish-speaking parents, that will meet Wednesday at Vallejo High School, to help them navigate the school system for their kids, discuss graduation, apply to schools and any other concerns the parents may have. Beyond that, the center has more workshops planned — just how Diaz wants to keep things.
“We just want to continue to do workshops with any agency that’s willing to come and help give information that’s valuable to the community,” Diaz said.
“People ask why do I do this and my answer to that is this: I was that ESL child that came to the U.S. and I was that teenage mother that got pregnant at 17. All these things affected me and my father told me, ‘Never forget where you come from. Help other people and contribute to the community.’ That’s what we’re doing — we give back.
“I love the city. I wouldn’t move anywhere else and I want to improve it for my kids, your kids, our grandkids,” Diaz added. “We are one and if we unite, there’s so much power and good things that can happen.”
Diaz & Loera Centro Latino’s First Anniversary party will be held at Broadway and Illinois streets on Sunday, from 12 to 6 p.m.
For more information on the center, call Diaz at 707-319-0319 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out upcoming events at the center, visit facebook.com/diazloeracentrolatino.
Contact Dianne de Guzman at 707-553-6833.
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