A Latina known in the community for helping poor workers and their families has launched a nonprofit organization she hopes will become a voice for the Hispanic community in Hall County.
Vanesa Sarazua said the need for such a one-stop resource hits home every time she steps into a bank and sees Latinos going there — not to open an account or make a deposit, but rather ask where they can go to get a driver’s license, find a free health clinic or register to vote.
After a series of organizational meetings, Sarazua recently introduced Hispanic Alliance GA. She wants the nonprofit to be known in the Hispanic community by its Spanish name: La Alianza.
Hispanic Alliance GA
For more information, contact Vanesa Sarazua at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-779-9997
“Basically, the Hispanic Alliance was formed because we saw the need for participation from our Hispanic community, a voice, an organization,” Sarazua said. “In writing my thoughts as to why I formed this organization — I kept the list, it’s very long — it’s the need for inclusion, education and a lot of different things.”
Through her work in Hall County schools’ migrant education program the past seven years, she said it became evident to her that such an organization is needed to pull resources together and make them more easily accessible to Latinos.
More than two dozen people attended the first meeting at the Gainesville Housing Authority. They included representatives of service providers such as Head Start, Good News Clinics, the United Way, Gateway Domestic Violence Center, business owners, police officers and Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann.
Organizers separated those in attendance into small groups and asked them to discuss “needs, resources, barriers and solutions” for the Hispanic community.
Those representing agencies said their hope is that the Hispanic Alliance will become an effective tool for referring more Hispanics to the services they offer.
Edith Jimenez and Angela Eanes said the vast majority of children in the county’s Head Start program are Hispanic. However, Jimenez said budget cuts have scaled back the number of children the program is able to serve.
“We only have so much room,” Jimenez said. “We have to look at the needs of the families, and it’s a point system to see who’s the neediest that we have to look at, like (homelessness), domestic violence or something horrific that’s happened to the family.”
Liz Coates, director of healthy engagement for Good News Clinics, said that almost 40 percent of those being served by the clinics are Latinos, which reflects the demographics. But Coates added that many more don’t know about the agency and many can’t get to a clinics because they don’t have transportation.
Sarazua said feedback from the brainstorming session would be used by La Alianza to see what gaps exist and strategically plan the group’s program.
Beatriz Shirley, property manager at the Gainesville Housing Authority and a local business owner and active advocate for the Hispanic community over the past 15 years, said she felt compelled to join the board of La Alianza. She reminded those in attendance why the organization is needed.
“We realize a lot of the organizations come from Atlanta and other cities, but we need something local, somebody that understands this area and what the needs are for this community,” Shirley said.
Fellow board member Diego Covarrubias has owned and operated Carniceria Tapatia, a grocery store, deli and restaurant on Browns Bridge Road his parents started when the family moved into the area from Chicago. He brought appetizers to the first La Alianza meeting.
Although Covarrubias said he would like to see other Hispanic businesses get involved, he understands there are cultural challenges to overcome that have held back efforts in the past, such as starting a local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“The problem, I think, is that Hispanics in general have the wrong concept of business owning,” he said. “If they think that something is not going to make money for them, they don’t bother with it. I don’t think that way no more. That’s why I’m here.”