The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan is a non-profit 501(c) (3) community-based organization, primarily serving the needs of the Latino community in West Michigan. Founded in 1978, the goal of the Hispanic Center was to provide unmet social services to the Hispanic community in Kent County. The first office of the Hispanic Center was located at 1935 S. Division, Grand Rapids, MI. In 1983, the Hispanic Center coordinated an effort to secure an old fire station from the City of Grand Rapids for the price of $1.00. The fire barn was located at 560 Hall Street. This building was to be used, after renovation, as the Hispanic Center’s new office and community center. The first floor of the building was utilized for community events. The second floor of the newly acquired building was used by Hispanic Center staff to provide employment assistance, information and referral, and interpretation services to the community.
In 1987, the Hispanic Center contracted with Catholic Human Development (CHD) to provide management support in the re-organization of the Hispanic Center. The manager at the time, Dennis Sturtevant, requested continued and expanded funding to improve the management of the Hispanic Center. In 1989, the Hispanic Center’s re-organized Board of Directors assumed full responsibility for the management of the agency. Also during that year, the Hispanic Center negotiated an agreement with St. Mary’s Health Services to open a family health clinic on the first floor of the old fire barn building. The new clinic was called Clinica Santa Maria. Clinica Santa Maria was managed and funded by St. Mary’s Health Services and private donations. In 1997, the Hispanic Center and Clinica Santa Maria moved to a new building built by St. Mary’s Health Services located at 730 Grandville Ave. SW in Grand Rapids.
Currently, the Hispanic Center offers the following programs and services to both the Latino and broader community of Western Michigan:
• Family Support Services (including Domestic Violence assistance, Mental Health services, Information & Referral, as well as assistance with emergency Housing issues, Wage and Hour concerns, Civil Rights problems, Public Benefit concerns, etc.)
• Adult Education (including English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, Computer Literacy classes, and English and Spanish GED.)
• Youth Leadership Development
• Immigrant Integration
• Immigrant Rights Program
• Early Learning
• Parent Leadership Development
• Civic Engagement
• Interpretation and Translation Services
• Cultural Competency Training
In November of 2006, the Center moved to the newly restored fire barn at the old Hall Street location. A new address (1204 Grandville Ave., SW) as well as some new paint and a new look graces the building. Still today, the dream of meeting the needs in the Latino community marches onward.
In 2005, the Hispanic Center modified its mission statement to read: “To Serve. To Educate. To Advocate” For the staff, board, and volunteers of the Hispanic Center, this statement means we offer services the community needs in order to bridge gaps in cultural differences, build self-sufficiency in individuals and families, and ultimately grow an integrated, stronger community together.