09/03/04 — Hispanic center sees big response in first month

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Hispanic center sees big response in first month

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 3, 2004 2:25 PM

Gaspar Gonzalez and Willie Cartegena had the vision of a Hispanic community center long before it turned into a reality.

More than a year ago, Gonzalez said he started going on eBay, buying TVs, DVDs and anything he could to raffle off and raise money.

He said they also sold sweetbreads, which are popular in Hispanic culture.

So when the doors to the center on Arrington Bridge Road at Dudley opened on Aug. 2, it was, in his words, "like a flower."

"It started sprouting and opening up," he said Thursday on the one-month anniversary of the opening.

The response has been overwhelming, especially for a little-known nonprofit program, Gonzalez said.

The biggest need has been for counseling. "We are receiving lots of people coming in with cases of domestic abuse," he said. "People are responding since they found out what we do."

He said they are working on three cases of sexual abuse of children and have had calls about attempted suicides by teens.

A psychiatric doctor from UNC-Chapel Hill comes to the area once a week, Gonzalez said, giving his time and services free of charge. The Eastpointe mental health agency has also been supportive, he said.

The main emphasis of the center is providing information and making referrals. In addition to counseling, educational programs and workshops are a big focus.

They even make house calls. "The people call me and we go to their homes," Gonzalez said.

The two men recently launched classes in English at Brogden Primary School for Latino parents, with plans to expand into other county schools. The purpose is not only to help with the language barrier, but to help parents work with their children.

"They can become more involved; help with homework and basic things that they can help their children with," Gonzalez said.

Cartegena said the ultimate goal is to ensure that Latinos become more involved in the community.

"Some are professionals in different areas -- psychiatric, nurses assistants, and such," he said. "They can be used in the community if they get the opportunity."

Response from the community and a variety of organizations has been helpful, Cartegena said. "We have had a lot of people helping us with donating things -- clothes, an air conditioner, furniture.

"That's exciting because we haven't asked for anything."

Most recently, 36 brand new child car seats were donated for distribution from a Raleigh group, with more expected later.

There will always be needs, the men say, but Cartegena stressed that the program will remain nonprofit. "We are not doing this for pay."

The most pressing needs, he said, are transportation, vans and access to food banks.

After one month in operation, Gonzalez says he is grateful that word of mouth has already brought such a groundswell of support.

"It's rewarding," he said, "that finally something is coming and it's a reality."

For donations or more information, call the center at 580-9759, Cartegena at 738-0604, or Gonzalez at 910-290-5400.