Spanish American Center marks 50 years
Support crucial as center celebrates golden milestone
Jean-Pierre Boissy and Crystal Guyette are all smiles, and a little damp, at Saturday’s Community Block Party at the Spanish American Center. DAVID DORE PHOTO
The Spanish American Center cannot do the work it’s done for five decades without support from both the community and local organizations.
The support from the community was visible last Saturday, when people dodged raindrops at times and stood under tents for the center’s annual Community Block Party, which also marked the center’s 50th anniversary.
Stop by the Spruce Street home of the Spanish American Center a day earlier, for example, and the support it gets from local organizations, in the form of grants, would have been on display during its annual Summer Youth Program.
The program ran from early July (with some activities starting in late June) through Aug. 4, and served around 100 children over the five weeks, according to program coordinator Christina Gonzalez.
Overseeing the program with Gonzalez are 10 volunteers and 10 staff members. Local teenagers have in the past worked at the summer program, and been paid for their work. But this year, for the first time, the Spanish American Center received funding from the state attorney general’s Healthy Summer Youth Jobs Grant Program — enough to pay five local teenagers to work 12 hours per week.
“It was great that they were able to sponsor us to hire five teens,” Gonzalez said, adding later, “Something’s better than nothing, because all of them have volunteered for years, so any time we can give an incentive, a little bit more than a field trip or something, that’s a good opportunity for them. And they’re also gaining job skills.”
Local and state officials, including state Attorney General Maura Healey, Spanish American Center staff and children participating in the Summer Youth Program gather for a photograph. DAVID DORE PHOTO
Spanish American Center Executive Director Neddy Latimer said the young workers “help serve the meals, and then they help the different age groups and different activities.”
The activities, Gonzalez explained, focused on “promoting health.” Children learned about nutrition (such as recognizing obesity and how exercise and eating the proper foods can help decrease obesity), recycling, bullying and self-esteem. They enjoyed breakfast and lunch, provided for free through the United States Department of Agriculture. They decorated paper plates to show how much of each type of food they should eat at each meal, and they made “affirmation boxes,” she said, “so they can start speaking positive to themselves and to their friends.”
“Emotional learning is a really big component in our summer program as well,” Gonzalez said.
Attorney General Maura Healey got a firsthand look at the work Gonzalez and others do during the Summer Youth Program when she toured the Spanish American Center a couple of weeks ago.
“Here’s a great program,” Healey told reporters. “These kids come in here every day and they’re getting meals, they’re getting exercise, they’re learning, they’re doing artwork. I love looking at the paper plates where they learned about nutrition and the four food groups. This is where it’s at, and we need to, I think, do everything we can to support programs like this.”
In its third year, the Healthy Summer Youth Jobs Grant Program funded 300 jobs across Massachusetts with $300,000 in settlements from what Healey called “health care entities who engaged in unlawful practices.”
Praising the Spanish American Center’s “impressive track record,” and noting the celebration of the center’s golden anniversary, Healey said, “The fact that they are celebrating 50 years just shows what a mark they’ve made in the community, how important they’ve been to this community, and why we need to continue to support organizations and centers like the Spanish American Center, because of the work they’re doing on behalf of young people.”
McGovern brings summer meals tour to Leominster
Congressman Jim McGovern stands with Chrifa Khaddaoui and her sons Fkihi Mohamed, 9, Fhiki Naim, 7, and Fhiki Omar, 6. DAVID DORE PHOTO
Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) recently hosted his fourth annual Summer Food Rocks Tour to highlight USDA’s national Summer Food Service Program and how it helps ensure that low-income students in Massachusetts do not go hungry during the summer months when school is out of session.
The tour includes visits to schools and summer meals sites in Athol, Greenfield, Leominster and Worcester.
“Today I’m proud to host our fourth annual summer meals tour to raise awareness about how this program helps low-income students in Massachusetts and across the country get access to the healthy meals they need when school is not in session,” McGovern said. “For millions of low-income students, summer break isn’t as carefree as it should be. During the school year, they have access to reliable, healthy school breakfasts and school lunches. But, when school’s out, these children — and their families — are often left scrambling to find enough to eat.
Congressman Jim McGovern talks with a couple of kids who are eating breakfast at the Riverside Village Apartments summer meal site. DAVID DORE PHOTO
“In the richest country in the world, there’s no excuse for any of our kids to go hungry. I am thankful to have so many strong partners at the USDA and here in Massachusetts to keep this program strong,” McGovern added. “Together, we’re helping to ensure that all our students get the healthy meals they need to continue to learn and grow all year round.”
As part of McGovern’s fourth annual tour, he is leading roundtable discussions with national, state and local leaders to talk about how the summer food program helps communities in need and visiting summer meals sites across the region. Joining McGovern’s on the tour were leaders from the USDA, the Massachusetts Department of Education, state legislators, including state Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster), as well as community and local leaders across Central and Western Massachusetts.
Officials and workers at the Spanish American Center’s summer meal site at Riverside Village Apartments in Leominster gather for a photograph. DAVID DORE PHOTO
The USDA Summer Food Service Program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. This summer, USDA plans to serve more than 200 million free meals to children 18 years and under at approved SFSP sites.
McGovern visited the summer meal site by the Spanish-American Center at Riverside Village Apartments in Leominster.
Happy 50th anniversary to the Spanish-American Center
EDITORIAL by Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, 7/14/17
Fifty years is a long time. Especially for an organization helping people every single day. Aug. 5 is the Spanish-American Center’s annual block party, and as usual it promises to be a whole lot of fun with entertainment and plenty of food and activities. The center was started 50 years ago by Catholic clergy as a way to reach out to the needs of the Spanish community. I’m sure those founding members probably couldn’t imagine what the center would bring to the East Side, the city, and all its residents — not just Spanish-speaking.
If you haven’t been to the Spanish-American Center at 112 Spruce St., you should stop by. A home converted to office space, a community center and kitchen, the center serves Leominster’s 15,000 Spanish residents with every possible activity and meets every need. Programs include an information and referral service, ESL and civic classes, peer leadership training, a food program through the homeless and community food pantry, a legal clinic, elderly outreach through their Senior Advocate Program, battered women and children counseling and homelessness referral. And that’s just at the center!
Neddy Latimer, one of the nicest people I have ever met, not only has kind words and a smile for everyone but is a tremendous leader — always with her ear to the ground to find out gaps in services or individual needs in the community. Neddy and her staff have brought the center to new heights through expanding the children’s breakfast and lunch program to offsite locations in Leominster, Fitchburg and Gardner. The center is so active in the community, participating in our strolls, spring clean up, and partnering with organizations like Riverside Village where they provided catering for the complex’s 55th anniversary just a few months ago. And always looking toward the bigger picture, trips to the State House and calls to legislators are just another way the Spanish-American Center serves as an incredible advocate for our community.
The Spanish-American Center is currently undertaking a strategic plan to meet the needs of future generations and ensure that the center remains strong. I have no doubt that with the leadership and energy of everyone at the center, Leominster will continue to have a tremendous partner for years to come.
To Neddy, Micky and the staff at the center, thank you for being unwavering advocates for not just those in our Spanish-speaking community, but for all our residents. Your celebration of diversity and work toward addressing challenges from the smallest to the largest has made Leominster a better place. Congratulations on 50 years!
There’s still lots going on in Leominster during the summer months. The Farmer’s Market takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Common every Saturday. The Colonial Band concert series started this Tuesday at Carter Park at 7:30. Thursdays is the weekly band concert at 7 p.m., also at Carter Park, Movie in the Park is coming up at Barrett Park on the 14th at 7:30 p.m., the Johnny Appleseed Craft Beer Fest is back by popular demand downtown on the Common on Aug. 5 from 4-8 p.m., Ladies Night Out is Aug. 10, and don’t forget the Fox 25 Zip Trip coming to Sholan on Aug. 11. Get some sleep and show up at 5 a.m. to get the place hopping!
Spanish American Center offers free community meals
The Spanish American Center in Leominster is pleased to provide the community with the following free Breakfast Cafés and Soup Kitchen Suppers. All are welcome.
Breakfast Cafés are offered Mondays from 8-10 a.m. at (and with) Fitchburg New Life Christian Church, 63 Fairmount St., Fitchburg, and Tuesdays and Fridays from 8:30-9:30 a.m. at the Spanish American Center, 112 Spruce St., Leominster.
Soup Kitchen Suppers are offered from 3-4:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Spanish American Center’s David L. Higgins Jr. Cocina, 112 Spruce St., Leominster.
The Leominster Spanish American Center, Inc. is a registered, nonprofit social service agency serving the greater Leominster community. For more information, visit www.spanishamericancenter.org or call (978) 534-3145.
Spanish American Center, bank team up for ‘Back to School Get Together’
Submitted to The Champion
The Spanish American Center, along with Enterprise Bank in Leominster, is sponsoring a “Back to School Get Together” for children and parents from 3-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1 at the center, 112 Spruce St., Leominster.
Stop by for free school supplies and information about the Spanish American Center and its year-round after-school programs. To sign up, or for more information, call Mickey Guzmán at (978) 534-3145, ext. 114.
All school-aged children who attend, accompanied by a parent, guardian or other adult family member will receive school supplies. Donations of supplies made through the generosity of Enterprise Bank in Leominster and the generosity of the Leominster community.
If interested in making a donation of school supplies, please bring them to Enterprise Bank in Leominster through Friday, Aug. 26.
Fallon Health gives grants to local hunger organizations
By David Dore, Leominster Champion
Attending the recent grant distribution were, back row, from left, Tara Rivera and Sharon Nolli from Fallon Health, Lisa Normandin from the Lunenburg Turkey Hill Family Lions Club, Pastor Michelle Feliciano, Pastor Louis Feliciano and Hector Ramos from the House of Grace & Restoration, Sue Chalifoux Zephir from Ginny’s Helping Hand, Mark Maxfield from United Neighbors of Fitchburg, Brian Calnan from Catholic Charities, James Knight and Scott Arnold from Highland Baptist Church, and Kimberly Salmon from Fallon Health, and, front row, center, Kylee McCumber from Kylee’s Kare Kits for Kids, Mary Gianetti from Heywood Hospital and Joanne Foster from the Growing Places Garden Project.
David Dore photo
Attending the recent grant distribution were, back row, from left, Tara Rivera and Sharon Nolli from Fallon Health, Lisa Normandin from the Lunenburg Turkey Hill Family Lions Club, Pastor Michelle Feliciano, Pastor Louis Feliciano and Hector Ramos from the House of Grace & Restoration, Sue Chalifoux Zephir from Ginny’s Helping Hand, Mark Maxfield from United Neighbors of Fitchburg, Brian Calnan from Catholic Charities, James Knight and Scott Arnold from Highland Baptist Church, and Kimberly Salmon from Fallon Health, and, front row, center, Kylee McCumber from Kylee’s Kare Kits for Kids, Mary Gianetti from Heywood Hospital and Joanne Foster from the Growing Places Garden Project. David Dore photo
Organizations that help feed North County residents gathered in Leominster recently to receive grants from Fallon Health to continue their efforts.
Kylee’s Kare Kits for Kidz hosted the grant distribution, which saw almost a dozen groups from Leominster and beyond receive between $1,500 and $2,500.
According to Director of Community Relations Kimberly Salmon, Fallon Health this year funded 65 organizations across Massachusetts that fight hunger with $167,000 in net proceeds from its 10th Golf & Gather FORE a Cause event in September.
The Worcester-based nonprofit health care services organization, which runs a health maintenance organization and Summit Eldercare (which has a location in Leominster), changed its hunger relief program for 2015-16. Instead of giving out unsolicited grants, Fallon Health moved the program online and asked organizations to submit applications.
“We really wanted to see how we could expand the program, how we can make the resources go further, and how we can look at a different way of addressing the issues,” Salmon said.
Local organizations that received grants included:
• Casa de Gracia y Restauracion (House of Grace and Restoration), Fitchburg — $1,500.
• Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Worcester — $2,500.
• Gardner Community Action Committee — $2,500.
• Ginny’s Helping Hand, Inc., Leominster — $2,000.
• Growing Places Garden Project, Leominster — $2,500.
• Heywood Hospital, Gardner — $2,500.
• Highland Baptist Church Food Pantry, Fitchburg — $1,000.
• Kylee’s Kare Kits for Kidz, Inc., Leominster — $2,000.
• Lunenburg Turkey Hill Family Lions Club — $1,500.
• Spanish American Center, Leominster — $2,500.
• United Neighbors of Fitchburg — $2,500.
Doctor offers program in Spanish on childhood asthma
The Spanish American Center, in cooperation with Medical Associates Pediatrics and HealthAlliance Hospital, is excited to announce an Asthma Awareness and Education Program regarding childhood asthma.
On Wednesday, March 2, Dr. Fernando Catalina, a Leominster-based bilingual/ bicultural pediatrician, will speak in Spanish to provide an informative presentation with ample opportunity for questions. English translation will be available as well, and all are welcome.
This will take place on the HealthAlliance Hospital-Leominster campus at 60 Hospital Road, in the Simonds Building, just behind the main hospital building. Free parking is available. The program will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and refreshments will be served. The program is free of charge.
Childhood asthma is a common and serious illness in the Latino community, and, with the help of funding from the North Central Community Health Network (CHNA 9), a multi-pronged program has begun to help families understand and manage asthma. The presentation by Catalina is part of this program.
For questions regarding the upcoming program with Catalina, call the Spanish American Center at (978) 534-3145, extension 112 and ask for or leave a message for Sonia or Lionel.
Ginny’s, Spanish American Center partner on soup kitchen
Submitted to The Champion
Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 13,(2016) Ginny’s Helping Hand and the Spanish American Center are teaming up to provide hot soup and sandwiches from 4-5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Meals will be served at the Spanish American Center, located at 112 Spruce St. in Leominster, and continuing each week through April.
Both the Spanish American Center and Ginny’s recognized the need for a soup kitchen to provide hot meals to the hungry during the cold winter months. They were each awarded a grant from Fallon Health.
Neddy Latimer of the Spanish American Center and Sue Chalifoux Zephir from Ginny’s are looking forward to launching this new service for the hungry.
“We are very happy to be able to provide hot and healthy meals to those in need this winter,” Chalifoux Zephir said.
Latimer added, “I have wanted to open a soup kitchen for a long time. I am grateful that Fallon Health agreed with us that this service is needed and supported our efforts by funding the soup kitchen.”
“We applaud Ginny’s Helping Hand and the Spanish American Center for creating a partnership focused on providing meals to some of the community’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Richard Burke, interim president and CEO of Fallon Health. “Through our financial support we join them in the fight against hunger. It’s a fight that Fallon Health has taken on across the Commonwealth by providing resources such as grants, advocacy, in-kind donations and volunteers.”
Those wanting more information or wishing to volunteer should please contact Sue Chalifoux-Zephir at Ginny’s at (978) 537-1387 or Neddy Latimer at the Spanish American Center in Leominster at (978) 534-3145.
Sheriff’s Winter Coat Drive spreads warmth and cheer
December, 2015 Leominster Champion
Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis is pictured with members and staff from the Spanish American Center of Leominster during the sheriff’s visit to drop off winter coats for the Sheriff’s Annual Winter Coat Drive.
The Sheriff ’s Coat Drive is an annual event that provides new or lightly used winter coats to families in need throughout Worcester County and is a collaborative effort between the Sheriff ’s Office of Community Corrections, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, the Worcester County Reserve Deputy Sheriff ’s Association, Warmer Winters of Leominster, the Rutland Women’s Knitting Club, Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton, Southbridge High School, Twin City Cleaners of Dudley, Independent Cleaners of Fitchburg, and many other local businesses and community partners.
This year, the coat drive received a huge boost in early November with a special donation from Wachusett Mountain Ski Area of more than 1,500 ski jackets.
“With a tremendous donation of over 1,500 winter jackets from Wachusett Mountain Ski Area and the Crowley family, we were able to have a huge head start on our successful coat drive that was able to help so many families in our community,” Evangelidis said. “We cannot thank them enough for their overwhelming generosity.”
During the distribution week, the sheriff paid a special visit to more than a dozen local charitable organizations to personally hand deliver thousands of winter jackets, including the Gardner Community Action Center, the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center and Our Father’s House of Fitchburg, the Spanish American Center of Leominster, the Rutland Food Pantry, St. Anne’s Human Services of Shrewsbury, Rhodes House of Recovery in Millbury, Tradewinds Clubhouse, Catholic Charities and Arc of Hope in Southbridge, and St. John’s Food for the Poor Program, Veteran’s Inc. and The Friendly House of Worcester.
“During the holiday season, the Sheriff ’s Annual Winter Coat Drive helps to ensure that local families who may be in need are provided with an adequate winter coat,” Evangelidis said. “With over 3,500 winter jackets collected during this year’s coat drive, we were able to help more families and children in need than in years past. As the cold weather months approach, and especially during this difficult economic time, it is extremely important to do all we can to help those in our community who may be less fortunate.”
“Sadly we have many families who struggle to pay their electric bills and heating bills and cannot make ends meet, especially during the long winter months,” said Spanish American Center representative Nicolas Formaggia. “The Sheriff ’s Winter Coat Drive is a wonderful resource that we truly depend on each year to help keep our families warm.”
“We are extremely fortunate to have had Wachusett Mountain, Independent Cleaners and Twin City Cleaners, as well as all of our wonderful community partners assist with this year’s coat drive by donating and dry cleaning thousands of winter jackets,” Evangelidis said. “This program would not be possible without their overwhelming generosity.”
Rollstone pledges $10K to Spanish American Center
From left, Rollstone Executive VP Linda Racine, SAC Executive Director Neddy Latimer, President of the Board of Directors of SAC Richard Letarte and Martin Connors, Rollstone president and CEO.
Rollstone Bank & Trust recently pledged $10,000 to the Spanish American Center in Leominster for its meal preparation program.
The SAC prepares more than 1,000 meals daily for children during the summer and delivers as far west as Gardner. It also helps provide meals for homeless people temporarily housed locally. The proceeds will help the SAC convert its kitchen to a commercial kitchen, which has an estimated total cost of $225,000.
“The Rollstone Charitable Foundation’s mission is to strengthen our communities and improve the lives of children, which aligns with the SAC’s efforts,” said Martin F. Connors Jr., president & CEO of Rollstone Bank & Trust. “We are happy to help them continue their important work.”
To make a donation or learn more about the SAC, visit SpanishAmericanCenter.org
Leominster Champion 2014-08-01 / Neighborhoods
Safety First at the Spanish American Center
2014-08-01 / Neighborhoods/ Leominster Champion
Tuesday morning, a group of local youths at the Spanish American Center were given a chance to learn about safety and being a medical emergency responder when Val Ramos and Andrew Harding of Medstar Ambulance visited the center. The youths got to tour the ambulance and learn about different life-saving tools. In photo, youths pose with Ramos (on left) and Harding (on right) along with Center Director Neddy Latimer, Youth Advisor Glory Rodriguez and staff member Chris Simmers-Swanson.
Photo by Champion Editor Lindsay Sauvageau