11/27/05 — New Hispanic community center opens

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New Hispanic community center opens

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 27, 2005 2:09 AM

The Hispanic Community Development Center in Dudley has relocated, with plans to expand more than just its office space.

Now located at 309 Potts Road, the center will contain a conference room, two offices, and reception area, nearly tripling the space of its original building on Arrington Bridge Road, said Willie Cartagena, executive director of the center. It officially opens Monday with regular weekday hours from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The center, although designed to benefit the Hispanic community, is also designed to provide services to anyone in need, Cartagena said.

Supporters were invited last week to tour the new building, which is still a work in progress, Cartagena said. Finishing touches are being added, thanks to volunteers offering their services, he said.

A young mother in the community came in to paint the walls, Cartagena said. Lonnie Casey Jr. of Goldsboro donated sheetrock and put it up with the help of three workers he brought in on weekends, installed a sign and lights, and donated a freezer. The freezer came in handy this past week, when Case Farms donated 18 turkeys that were given out in time for Thanksgiving. Recipients were also given rice, oil, beans, corn meal, and canned goods.

Julie McNair, a member of the center's board of directors, said its aim is "to help everybody -- the community is everybody."

Staff Sergeant Francheska Pillich has been stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base for the past two years. She works as a liaison to get the base involved in the center's efforts.

"We're also trying to get people to know what we do on a daily basis," she said. "Right now we're in slow motion because nobody knows a lot about the group. I think when people start hearing what we do, they'll be more involved."

She explained the center's role as being a way to help residents improve themselves.

"Not only in the professional area, but also getting their papers together, trying to get them the health care that they need," she said. "We'll get the word out that we're here to help them."

Originally from Puerto Rico, Pillich said the only English words she knew when she joined the Air Force were mom, dad, dog and cat.

"I was lost in basic training," she said. Fellow trainees born in Puerto Rico but brought up in the U.S. helped her make it through.

"I wouldn't be as successful if it hadn't been for them. I think if I can give the opportunity or the chance to another person, that will awesome," she said.

Steven Ritchie is night shift manager at Case Farms, where the workforce is mostly Hispanic. The company was very supportive of the creation of the center, he said.

"A lot of our workforce will benefit, as well as members of their family," Ritchie said.
J.D. Evans, chairman of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, said he believes the center will be a great benefit to county residents, whether they are Hispanic or not.

"This is one of the things that we're trying to do here in Wayne County, make our services available," he said.

On November 29, Goshen Medical will be at the site, providing a free mammography clinic. And the second week in December, the N.C. Food Bank of Raleigh is expected to pay a visit.

Cartagena said the center has applied to become a member of the Food Bank.

As time goes on, he said, more clinics, events and services will be available at the center, Cartagena said.

"We already learned that a doctor from UNC will be offering free mental health services for families and individuals, four hours a day on Thursdays," Cartagena said. There will be home visits as needed, he said.

"Anything else that you ask for, we're going to do for you, and everything that we do is free," he told those in attendance during last week's tour.

Cartagena also told visitors last week about a project being led at Brogden Elementary School by Gaspar Gonzalez, co-founder of the center.

Gonzalez works with parents of students two mornings a week, teaching them English. In the afternoons, he returns to help teachers learn Spanish so they can better communicate with students and parents.

For more information about the Hispanic Community Center and its programs, call the center at 738-0604.