David L. Higgins, Jr. Cocina & Activity Center- History & Dedication

From The Leominster Champion, September 25, 2015:
A cocina of their own: Spanish American Center dedicates kitchen to Higgins

By David Dore,  LC_Logo

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 photos1p1.medium


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).


Construction photos 2014/2015/2016


Exciting News

As of Tuesday, June  9, 2015  the Spanish Center has received its Occupancy Permit from the City of Leominster!

Stay tuned for details of our Dedication program and continued updates! IMG_1702 IMG_1703 IMG_1704IMG_1705Photo Credit: JP Boissy, 11/7/2014, Spanish American Center Construction Site for our new kitchen, youth facility! Click on pictures to enlarge. Check back for updates as work continues. . .


And , as of November 18, 2004:

SAC11:18 3 SAC 11:18 SAC 11:18 9 SAC 11:18 5 SAC 11:18 4 SAC 11:18 2 SAC11:14 8 SAC 11:14 9 SAC 11:14 7 SAC 11:14 6

 Framing, roof underway! November 24, 2014 Looking Good! Framing, bones and roof!

SAC ren 11:24 SAC 11:24 get-attachment.aspx SAC R 3 SAC Ren 4 SAC Ren 5

Great size comparison!         SAC Ren 6 SAC Ren 7 SAC Ren 8 SAC Ren 9 SAC Ren 10 SAC Ren 11 SAC Ren 12 SAC Ren 14 SAC Ren 15 SAC Ren 16 SAC Ren 17 SAC Ren 19 SAC Ren 20 SAC Ren 21

To enlarge image, right click on it! Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Boissy, SAC Board

And on December 4, 2014 : Windows & Doors!

:get-attachment.aspx-20 get-attachment.aspx-19 get-attachment.aspx-18 get-attachment.aspx-17

And on Monday, December 8, 2014: Siding 

IMG_1823 IMG_1822 IMG_1821 It is beginning to look a lot like . . .


And, on December 30, 2014: (click to enlarge photos)

Duct Work

Duct Work

Wall break through - Kitchen into new addition/Youth Hall

Wall break through – Kitchen into new addition/Youth Hall

Insulation and framing - construction progress

Insulation and framing – construction progress

Interior duct work, kitchen area

Interior duct work, kitchen area

Interior construction- youth hall area.

Interior construction- youth hall area.

Exterior siding

Exterior Side


Keep checking our progress and watch for our open house this Spring, 2015! Thanks to all of our generous donors who made this possible for our community that we serve! 

May, 2015  Interior of Kitchen – Board Walk-Through

On Thursday, May 7th 2015 the SAC Board of Directors toured our nearly completed, spacious, kitchen, food storage, and preparation facility! Getting close, we are awaiting city permits for occupancy! (Pictures Below):


Food Prep and Industrial Stove


Walk In Freezer/Refrigerator Unit


Industrial Stove/Fryer



Exterior Leominster SAC May, 2015