12/14/06 — Duplin Hispanic service center secures new, permanent address

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Duplin Hispanic service center secures new, permanent address

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 14, 2006 1:45 PM

Two years ago, realizing that the county's Hispanic population was going to continue to grow, Duplin County officials created the Duplin County Latino Support Group.

That group was charged with finding ways to reach out to the county's Hispanic population and with creating a centralized location for them to access various government and educational services.

To that end, the agencies involved -- the county government, the hospital, Cooperative Extension, the county Health Department, the county Department of Social Services, James Sprunt Community College and members of the law enforcement, business and faith communities -- created El Centro Latino de Duplin Inc.

The organization, which was started from scratch, found a building when Four Oaks Bank and Trust of Wallace donated a 2,600-square-foot mobile unit, but they had no place to put it -- not until last week, when support group board chairman Alex Asbun told the county Board of Commissioners that El Centro Latino had secured a permanent location for its operations.

The Center got an address last week when the House of Raeford agreed to lease the land across from its plant on U.S. 117 between Rose Hill and Magnolia for $1 a year.

"El Centro Latino de Duplin is a well-established organization, but this is what we've been working on," said Asbun, director of Duplin General Hospital's Latino Health Care Access. "We're hoping to open our doors to the public in the near future."

Their goal is simple.

"Our mission is to provide access to services to help the Latino population be self-sustaining," Asbun said.

As of the last census revision in 2004, Duplin County's population was estimated to be 17 percent Hispanic -- up from 15.1 percent in 2000.

"Some of the projections even call for it to be anywhere from 20 percent to 22 percent in the near future," Asbun said.

But, he continued, as that population has more access to services and the more it becomes self-sufficient, the more it can integrate into and fully participate in society.

"We had the programs in place already," Asbun explained. "Other agencies in the county have developed some level of Latino outreach programs, so we decided the best approach to this was to have a centralized location so not every agency had to develop a full outreach program."

Among the center's offerings are financial literacy programs, English-as-a-Second-Language and parenting classes, women's support groups, children's programs, computer literacy courses, driver's license courses and legal aid. The center also helps provide access to health care outlets and job safety information, as well as job training and resume-building skills.

All of those programs are offered through the support group's member agencies.

The center's new home simply provides people with a central access point.

"Basically it's going to be a one-stop clearinghouse for services to Latinos," Asbun said. "We want to facilitate the work of those agencies to provide services to Latino families. We are not planning on duplicating any services. We are collaborating with the existing agencies to offer these services in a consolidated and integrated way."

For information about the center, call 910-296-2942.