10/03/05 — Hispanic Center marks first year of helping others

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Hispanic Center marks first year of helping others

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 3, 2005 1:47 PM

Gaspar Gonzalez still remembers the way things were when he first came to Wayne County in 1978.

"It was rough for Hispanics to be here," he said. "They were looked at in a different way."

When he and Willie Cartagena decided to open the Hispanic Community Development Center a year ago, it was designed to be a supportive venture for the burgeoning group of immigrants.

The two directors have seen the center on Arrington Bridge Road in Dudley used for health fairs and community events, while becoming a resource for such services as job assistance, housing issues and finding counseling and domestic violence assistance.

It was admittedly hard in the beginning, Cartagena said.

"We thought that we were not going to get the support," he said, but faith in God helped lay the groundwork.

"He leads you all day; he opens the door," Cartagena said. "One door was opened; another was opened."

The project began to come together, he said, with law enforcement and other county agencies like Goldsboro Pediatrics and Goshen Medical getting on board.

"We have gone to all kinds of churches and agencies and groups," Gonzalez said. As a result, the range of free services has expanded from securing two psychiatrists from the University of North Carolina to help with home visits and counseling, to Cartagena and Gonzalez teaching English to mothers at Brogden Primary.

"I don't believe in charging people," especially people who don't have the money, he said. "We're part of this America, and we're going to be part of the future of America."

On Saturday evening, the men recognized some of the center's supporters during the organization's first annual Latino awards at Wayne Center.

Axel Lluch, director of Hispanic/Latino Affairs for the Governor's Office, spoke about the importance of having such centers.

"The growth of Hispanics in this state has been phenomenal," he said. "There has been 500 percent growth in 10 years. Nationwide, it's even more. Fourteen percent of the population in the United States is Hispanic."

When his office was created by then-Gov. Jim Hunt in 1998, it was designed as a liaison to the Hispanic community. Today, he said, there are non-profit community centers like Wayne County's in almost every county in North Carolina.

The Hispanic population is as diverse as any other, and its challenges range from learning the way of life in America and the language barrier, to immigration reform.

Among those recognized for supporting the Hispanic Community Development Center were El Pueblo, the Mental Health Association and Eastpointe, Goldsboro Milling, Mount Olive Pickle, Bank of America, Judith McMillan, Case Farms, City of Goldsboro and Wayne County government, Waynesborough Park, the Health Department, American Red Cross, and Lighthouse of Goldsboro.