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Partnership opens soup kitchen at Leominster’s Spanish American Center  

Sentinel & Enterprise January 15, 2016/PETER JASINSKI

LEOMINSTER — Members of the local homeless and low-income population have a new guaranteed place to eat, thanks to a soup kitchen that’s been established by the Spanish American Center and Ginny’s Helping Hands.

Ana Rodriguez prepares a big pot of soup Thursday at the newly opened kitchen at the Spanish American Center in Leominster. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE

Ana Rodriguez prepares a big pot of soup Thursday at the newly opened kitchen at the Spanish American Center in Leominster. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE

“Hunger has become such an important issue and, by doing this, we’re hoping to provide a big service,” said Neddy Latimer, the Spanish American Center’s executive director.

The soup kitchen opened Wednesday at the Spanish American Center, 112 Spruce St.

“A few months ago, Neddy had mentioned to me that she wanted to open a soup kitchen, because there isn’t currently one in Leominster that’s open to the public,” said Sue Chalifoux Zephir, director of Ginny’s Helping Hands.

ÒThe point right now is to feed people warm meals while itÕs cold out,Ó said Sue Chalifoux Zephir, right, director of GinnyÕs Helping Hands. SheÕs joined by Spanish American Center Executive Director Neddy Latimer, second from right, and volunteers Danielle Pierce, left, and Pat Freiss.SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / PETER JASINSKI

“The point right now is to feed people warm meals while it’s cold out,” said Sue Chalifoux Zephir, right, director of Ginny’s Helping Hands. She’s joined by Spanish American Center Executive Director Neddy Latimer, second from right, and volunteers Danielle Pierce, left, and Pat Freiss. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / PETER JASINSKI

Aside from a breakfast offered by Pilgrim Congregational Church, Chalfoux Zephir said she could not think of any other locations in Leominster where the homeless could regularly go to receive a free hot meal.

The kitchen will be serving meals from 4 to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays to people living in the Leominster area.

In the months since Latimer decided she wanted to open a soup kitchen, she and Chalifoux Zephir had been working to gather a combined $4,500 in grant funding to pay for the meals.

Food is provided by Ginny’s Helping Hands and prepared at the commercial kitchen at the Spanish American Center.

“We hope this goes through April because the point right now is to feed people warm meals while it’s cold out,” said Chalifoux Zephir.

“But we would love to continue on with it.”
Many volunteers from Ginny’s Helping Hands will also be on staff at the new soup kitchen to lend a hand, including Pat Freiss, who said she’s had people coming into Ginny’s looking for hot meals in the past.

“Sometimes I have pre-made sandwiches I can give them, but that’s the extent of it. It’s not the same,” said Freiss.

The Spanish American Center already prepares meals for low-income students and for the homeless residents living at the Days Inn two days a week.

While Chalifoux Zephir praised the efforts to feed people living in shelters, she said the new soup kitchen is intended to primarily serve a different group of people in need.

“There’s this whole population living out on the street who are alone and in need,” she said. “They’re cold and they’re hungry.”

Latimer said the center is also waiting on the approval of other grants so they can further diversify services to the community. “We have five or six programs just waiting for the approval of different applications we have submitted,” she said.

Until then, the soup kitchen will continue to serve hot meals to whoever wants one. Chalifoux Zephir said there is no maximum number of meals they can serve each night and no shortage of seats available.

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter and Tout @PeterJasinski53.

Sentinel & Enterprise

The Spanish American Center/ Ginny’s Helping Hands is able to offer this Soup Kitchen at the David Higgins, Jr. Cocina due to funding received from a generous grant from the FALLON COMMUNITY BENEFITS PROGRAM     END HUNGER INITIATIVE. 

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From our friends at Heywood Hospital in Gardner, another upcoming informational series:

Heywood Hospital- Tomando - Flyer-2

Recent Spanish Center News Coverage:

From The Leominster Champion, September 25, 2015:

A cocina of their own: Spanish American Center dedicates kitchen to Higgins

By David Dore, Leominster Champion

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Right: Richard Letarte, left, president of the Spanish American Center Board of Directors, stands next to Janice Higgins, who is holding a plaque announcing that the new kitchen and activity center at the center have been named for her husband David. Left: Higgins cuts the ribbon to open the new David L. Higgins Jr. Cocina and Activity Center. David Dore photos

According to Janice Higgins, it is “quite fitting and proper” that the new kitchen and activity center at the Spanish American Center has been named for her husband.

“He loved to plant, he loved to grow, he loved to garden, and he loved to harvest,” Janice Higgins said earlier this week. “And all of that led to his love for cooking.”

When he wasn’t making supper for her, one of the things David Higgins Jr. would do is spend time at the Spanish American Center at 112 Spruce St.

“On occasion, I would hear him say, ‘I’m going down to see my people,’” Janice Higgins recalled. “Translated, it meant, ‘I’m going to see what’s new on Spruce Street, perhaps hang out, maybe help if they need me, assist in some way.’”

At a ceremony Tuesday morning, about 30 people gathered to see the unveiling of the new David L. Higgins Jr. Cocina and Activity Center at the Spanish American Center. It’s named for a volunteer whose impact will be felt for years to come.

Higgins died in October 2012 at the age of 83. He served as Leominster’s director of public health from 1953-65, executive director of the Montachusett Opportunity Council from 1965-72, and director of the Worcester Area Drug Coalition (now known as Community Healthlink) starting in 1972.

“Dave Higgins was a wonderful friend to the Spanish [American] Center,” said Richard Letarte, president of the Spanish American Center Board of Directors. “He understood the problems and trials of family moving to a strange area with a different language and diverse customs.”

That area for Higgins, Letarte said, was the French Hill neighborhood of Leominster — where the Spanish American Center is located, and where David Higgins met Janice.

“But he urged the leadership here to be open to the perpetual challenges of assimilation, and to always put people first,” Letarte added. “He encouraged us to be open minded about new people, projects and opportunities. His ubiquitous can-do attitude propelled us to embark upon our cocina.”

“He was a good friend of our center and our community. He was a mentor to me,” Spanish American Center Director Neddy Latimer said. “Throughout the years, he spent many hours here at the center, encouraging us to expand services and programs, and to reach out to the low-income community. His concerns about the poor and the most vulnerable were his priority. He cared about their well being, and the most important thing he wanted was to end hunger and poverty.”

As described on the agency’s website, the mission of the nonprofit Spanish American Center is “to respond to the social, health, educational, and cultural needs of the greater Leominster area with special focus on the Hispanic/ Latino community. We offer programs that ameliorate the problems of language, hunger, poverty and access. We foster economic self-sufficiency, equal opportunity and active participation in community-related activities.”

The cocina (the Spanish word for “kitchen”) and activity center are located in a former garage, and it’s quite a change from the kitchen that had been located inside the Spanish American Center itself.

“Until this year, this was done in a residential kitchen upstairs, in the main building, in a space one-third the size of the new kitchen,” Letarte explained. “In addition, we were overwhelmed with the need for setup and storage.”

According to Letarte, the Spanish American Center feeds about 1,000 children per day during the summer at sites throughout northern Worcester County. It also provides meals twice a week throughout the year to homeless families living in local hotels, as well as some senior citizens.

Two years ago, plans were drawn up to convert the garage into the kitchen. However, Letarte said, the plans were changed to incorporate storage and a 720-square-foot all-purpose room.

Latimer said after the dedication ceremony an anonymous donor “helped a lot” and “was the one who made this possible, the kitchen.”

Once the multi-purpose room is completed, Latimer said, it will become an activity center for after-school programs and other events.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “This is a dream come true for the center and the community.”

(published in the Leominster Champion September 25, 2015).

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From the Sentinel & Enterprise, September 23, 2015:

Leominster’s Spanish American Center opens new kitchen

LEOMINSTER — After two years of planning and months of construction, the Spanish American Center formally opened its new “cocina” and activity center in honor of the late David Higgins Jr., a former board member and longtime supporter of the nonprofit agency.

“It’s quite fitting and proper to have the kitchen chosen to wear David’s name,” said Higgins’ wife, Janice, who was on hand Tuesday during the dedication of the 720-square-foot annex to the center on Spruce Street that services the area’s Latino and Hispanic community. Equipped with a large, walk-in refrigerator, commercial-sized stoves and a fire-suppression system, the kitchen allows the staff and volunteers to prepare about 1,500 meals each day during the summer for disadvantaged youths at 18 sites in the Twin Cities, Gardner and Clinton.

Richard LeTarte presents Janet Higgins with a plaque during the dedication ceremony of the new kitchen and activity center at the Leominster Spanish American Center on Tuesday morning. The center was dedicated in honor of her husband David Higgins Jr. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

Richard LeTarte presents Janet Higgins with a plaque during the dedication ceremony of the new kitchen and activity center at the Leominster Spanish American Center on Tuesday morning. The center was dedicated in honor of her husband David Higgins Jr.
SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

In addition, the Center also provides meals twice a week, year round, to families in transition who are living in local motels, and for several elderly programs. Higgins thanked Neddy Latimer, the center’s executive director, in her remarks.

“Thank you, Neddy, your staff, your board of directors and all who made this gathering place a place where David’s legacy will live on,” she said.

Latimer, calling David Higgins a “mentor and friend,” said his concerns were for the poor and the most vulnerable.

“He cared about their well-being, and the most important thing he wanted was to end hunger and poverty,” said Latimer, who also thanked an anonymous donor for making the kitchen a reality.

Richard LaTarte, president of the center’s board, described David Higgins as a “wonderful friend to the Spanish Center.”

“He understood the problems and trials of families moving to a strange area with different languages and diverse customs,” LaTarte said. “He urged the leadership here to be open to the perpetual challenges of assimilation and to always put people first.”

Higgins, who said David loved gardening and cooking, said “la cocina” is the perfect place to honor her husband.

Neddy Latimer, executive director of the Leominster Spanish American Center, speaks during the dedication ceremony for the new kitchen and activity center Tuesday morning. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

Neddy Latimer, executive director of the Leominster Spanish American Center, speaks during the dedication ceremony for the new kitchen and activity center Tuesday morning.
SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

“This is a place where meals will be prepared with love, a place where, because of the new la cocina, hunger and poverty will become a thing of the past,” she said.

“From the Higgins family, I thank you today. You are my people,” she added, to the warm smiles of more than 30 people on hand for the dedication.

Also on hand were Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Ward 3 Councilor Wayne Nickel, and state Rep. Dennis Rosa.

Higgins was also presented a plaque from LaTarte, and staff member Mickey Guzman gave her a bouquet of flowers.

From left, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new kitchen and activity center at the Spanish American Center in Leominster, are Yemni Mendez, Janet Higgins, Richard LeTarte and Neddy Latimer. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

From left, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new kitchen and activity center at the Spanish American Center in Leominster, are Yemni Mendez, Janet Higgins, Richard LeTarte and Neddy Latimer.
SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green

 

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La Junta de Directores y el Personal del

Centro Hispano Americano, Inc. de Leominster

Cordialmente le invita a usted a asistir a la gran apertura y dedicación del

“David L. Higgins, Jr. Cocina and Activity Center”

(Cocina y Centro de Actividad David S. Higgins Jr.)

El martes, 22 de septiembre de 2015, a las 10 de la mañana

112 Spruce Street, Leominster, MA 01453

Llame a Mickey Guzmán, al 978-534-3145 ext. 114

m_guzman@spanishamericancenter.org

Después de la dedicación, podemos ver el local y tendremos refrescos.

Para ls dirección: www.spanishamericancenter.org

     Sr. David L. Higgins, Jr. fue un líder dedicado a la comunidad, un amigo especial y un guía mentor al personal y a la Junta de Directores del Centro Hispano American, Inc. de Leominster.     Al dedicar nuestra nueva Cocina y Centro de Actividad en la memoria de Sr. Higgins, deseamos continuar su legado, permitiendo muchos jóves y sus familiars a que beneficien de la comida y a los programas de nutrición por muchos años más.

La mission del Centro Hispano Americano, Inc. es de responder a las necesidades sociales, de salud, educacionales y culturales de Leominster y comunidades cercanas, con un enfoque especial a la comunidad Hispana/ Latina. Nosotros ofrecemos programas que buzcan mejorar y resolver los problemas del idioma, el hambre, la pobreza y el acceso (servicios). Promovemos auto-suficiencia económica, oportunidades iguales para todosy participación activa en eventos y actividades comunitarias. El Centro esuna agencia sin fines lucrativos 501 (c) (3) .

 

The Board of Directors and Staff of

The Leominster Spanish American Center, Inc.

Cordially invite you to attend the opening and dedication of the

David L. Higgins, Jr. Cocina and Activity Center

Tuesday, September 22, 2015, at 10 am 112 Spruce Street, Leominster, MA 01453

RSVP Mickey Guzman 978-534-3145 ext. 114

m_guzman@spanishamericancenter.org

Following the dedication, please join us for a tour and refreshments.

Directions: www.spanishamericancenter.org

 Mr. David L. Higgins, Jr. was a dedicated community advocate and a special friend of and mentor to the Staff and Board of Directors of the Leominster Spanish – American Center. By dedicating our new Cocina and Activity Center to his memory, we seek to continue his legacy, enabling scores of children and families to benefit from our expanded food and nutrition programs for many years to come.

 The Leominster Spanish-American Center’s mission is to respond to the social, health, educational, and cultural needs of the greater Leominster area with special focus on the Hispanic/Latino community. We offer programs that ameliorate the problems of language, hunger, poverty and access. We foster economic self-sufficiency, equal opportunity and active participation in community-related activities. The Center is a Non-Profit 501 (c) (3) agency.

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Freedom Means Radio Pro

Freedom Means Radio Program WPKZ Radio

 

The Leominster Spanish American Center to appear as guest on local radio station WPKZ program “Freedom Means” to highlight  Center’s Breast Cancer Initiative.

Join us this Sunday, June 14, 2015 when Barbara Nealon, LSW of Heywood Hospital, and Adrian L. Ford, Director, Three Pyramids Inc. in Fitchburg will host the Spanish Center’s Susan O’Brien and Board Member Cheryl Boissy as we spread the word about  local women’s health resources and the impact of Breast Cancer on vulnerable populations.

Barbara Nealon, LSW, Co Host of WPKZ's Freedom Means Radio

Barbara Nealon, LSW, Heywood Hospital & Co-Host of WPKZ’s Freedom Means Radio

 

Adrian L. Ford, Director, Three Pyramids Inc and Chairman of The Minority Coalition of North Central Massachusetts

Adrian L. Ford, Director, Three Pyramids Inc. and  Host of “Freedom Means”

 

Freedom Means is aired Every Sunday at 8:30 am on 105.3 FM and 1280 am on:

 

WPKZ Radio “The Heart Of New England’s Pulse”

If you miss us on WPKZ  you can hear a recording  of the broadcast on the Minority Coalition’s Website Media Page by clicking the link below.

minority_coalition_logo2

www.theminoritycoalition.org

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 Welcome to the Leominster Spanish American Center’s web page. The Center is a non-profit social service agency in Leominster, Massachusetts, a city of diverse ethnic and linguistic traditions. The Leominster Spanish American Center is a registered, tax exempt 503 © agency. We receive funding through private donors, grants, some government programs such as CDBG (Community Development Block Grants) and The United Way.

SAC Sign 112 Spruce Street

     Our vision is that every person would live in a safe, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous community in order to enjoy the full benefits of our society.

    Our mission is to respond to the social, health, educational and cultural needs of the Leominster community and surrounding areas with special focus on the Hispanic /Latino community, limited by language, poverty and access. We foster economic self-sufficiency, equal opportunity, and active participation in community related activities for better quality of life.

The Spanish American Center is committed to providing assistance to Spanish-speaking residents to overcome language barriers, promoting the development of our young people, fostering community involvement and leadership; increasing relationships with partners, and connecting clients to available community services, which represent and advocate for the community.

In keeping with Latino traditions and being mindful of the historical principles of American democracy, the Spanish American Center adheres to the values of inclusion, and acceptance and embracing one another in collaboration and celebration of hope for a more prosperous future.

     Our programs: include (ESL) English as a Second Language classes, our Leominster community food pantry, summer meal programs for children in Leominster, Fitchburg and Gardner, elder programs, legal clinics, domestic violence intervention, after school programs for middle and high school students, advocacy, and occasional mobile consulates for our Uruguayan-American community. In addition, the Center has begun, this past year, intervention with families in transition who are temporarily housed in local motels by providing hot meals two nights per week, which are prepared at the Center and delivered and served on-site at the motels. Our newest service for the community is mediation training for interested volunteers, and the provision of mediation services for our clients.