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Five Towns Community Center Receives Money to Expand Services for Latinos

Long Island organization gives $20,000 for Latino Empowerment Project.

The was recently awarded a $20,000 grant with the goal of addressing education and law enforcement policies that concern Inwood’s steadily growing Latino community.

The Long Island Unitarian Universalist Fund awarded the grant to the community center for its Latino Empowerment Project. LIUU is a field-of-interest fund in the Long Island Community Foundation that promotes progressive social change, according to the organization.

“The $20,000 grant will help us with the Latino population and empower them to do the work,” said Peter Visconti, associate director of the Five Towns Community Center. “The thing we felt good about is that it’s very competitive, with hundreds of people across Nassau and Suffolk. It was really good that we got that.”

With the funds, the community center will form an association staffed by two existing Latino part-time employees, Visconti said. Its goal will be to give Latino community members “the confidence and knowledge to work with their children’s education and make the Lawrence School District more sensitive so they feel more welcome,” he said. It will also work with local law enforcement on issues of intimidation.

“Inwood has a rapidly growing Latino population and there is a great need to create programs and policies that will help them assimilate and advance in their community,” said David M. Okorn, executive director of the Long Island Community Foundation. “LIUU’s $20,000 grant to the Five Towns Community Center, for the launching of the Latino Empowerment Project, aims to do just that.”

The Latino population of Inwood from 2,454 people, or 26.3 percent of the total population, in 2000 to 4,190, or 42.7 percent, in 2010, according to census data. Given the current trajectory, Latinos will eventually become the largest group in Inwood.

“The Latino Empowerment Project aims to provide Latino community members with the skills, resources, and structure to advocate on their own behalf,” said Sol Marie Alfonso-Jones, program officer at the Long Island Community Foundation. “Over the years, the Five Towns Community Center has developed strong ties to Inwood’s growing Latino community and is the ideal organization to successfully drive this program.”

The Town of Hempstead also recently awarded the Five Towns Community Center grants that will continue to fund its senior program, citizenship classes, and documentation and language seminars. The town gave an $11,000 grant for bilingual services and $85,283 for senior services.

“I am thrilled that we are able to support organizations that offer valuable services to residents of the Five Towns” Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said in a release. “I know the communities will benefit from these monies, which will finance a host of important services.”

Although Visconti said the center was thankful for Hempstead’s contributions, he advocated for more money, as the grant has remained the same for years. He added that the community center has not been able to give raises to its employees in two years.

“The difficulty now is to implement it,” Visconti said about LIUU’s grant. “It’ll be a challenge, but we have some good people working with the group. It’s exciting in this difficult time to get funding.”

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