The Spanish Community Center was founded in 1967 in the city of Joliet, Illinois. The purpose of the center was to provide social services to the growing needs of the Spanish speaking population within the city. This would be done in their native language, to make the transition of settling into the community, and learning English as a second language. Over the last four decades, the center has evolved from an agency helping only the Hispanic people of the neighborhood, to an agency providing help to the entire community.
Today’s Center welcomes all the members of the community regardless of race or ethnic origin. We make ourselves as multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-lingual, and multi-generational, with a Latino focus. We traditionally serve around 70% Hispanic, 25% African American, and 5% White. With the new wave of Spanish speaking people moving into the area, which is equal to or greater than forty years ago, we need to again emphasize and expand programs that address the needs of new Spanish speaking residents.
Our mission is the provision of educational and social services. We provide a broad range of programs and services. We also provide a place for meetings and other organized events which contribute to an active and informed community as well as an inclusive, neighborhood center that reaches outside its immediate service area to serve other Spanish speaking residents in need of our services.
We offer a two-way bilingual year round day care for children ages two through five. We utilize the Creative Learning Curriculum and direct our instructional lessons plans toward kindergarten readiness skills. Children are able to experience learning and playing from a culturally rich, diverse, and safe environment.
Our weekly food pantry serves about 200 needy families per month. We are a partner agency of the Northern Illinois Food Bank. We follow their rules and regulations regarding eligibility. Our goal is to give a full box of groceries, as nutritious as possible, to everyone that comes each week. We also provide food baskets on major Holidays that include Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Our center’s immigration and naturalization services serve all nationalities and countries of origin. We are a U.S. immigration and Naturalization Services Community Based Organization and are registered with the Illinois Attorney General for immigration Service.
Another major program is social service referral. We serve as the front door for individual and families who are afraid or unaware of where to go for help. This services include English as Second Language, citizenship workshops, and a variety of the other community education forums.
The primary goal of the Spanish Community Center for 2009 was to begin building an education to employment process focused on the unique needs of the Latino and other minority students. This was a critical missing program in our array of services. Our first project was the creation of a GED training program.
In 2009 we ran our first two pilot GED classes. Both of these classes were taught in Spanish. Our goal for 2010 is to enhance the support services that accompany the instructional delivery of the GED classes. This includes the creation of an open access computer lab. Getting the most accurate count for the 2010 Census will be another major goal.
The Spanish Community Center is a 501 (c) 3 non-for-profit organization. We are also a partner agency of the United Way of Will County.