Hispanic Community Services expanding

Hispanic Community Services expanding

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Representatives with the Hispanic Community Services, Inc. (HCSI) announced plans Wednesday to build and relocate to a new facility at the corner of Cate and Vandyne.

Executive Director Gina Gomez said they've needed this expansion for some time now.

"We are working on building a new facility for our Hispanic Community," Gomez said. "Right now, we are running really short on space.  The place we are in right now does't allow us to grow our services. So, we have this big project that we hope to accomplish in the next couple of years."

The HCSI works to help the Hispanic community in a number of different ways.

"We provide services for different areas," Gomez said. "Social, educational, cultural and health and under each of those areas we provide different services for the community. We serve the majority of the Hispanic community, but not just the Hispanic community because in order for all the organizations to serve their Hispanic clients they do it through our services."

Gomez said that there is a waiting list of people who want to get into their program.

"There is a big need for more space in order to provide more services," Gomez said. "Just an example of that, we have an after-school program with 24 children attending right now.  The need there is for about 50 kids, but we don't have a place to accommodate them. So, we have children on a waiting list just because we don't have the space to provide."

When they first had the idea to expand they contacted former CEO of St. Bernards Ben Owens.

Owens said it was Sister Elaine, who founded the HCSI in 1997, who contacted him first.

"Sister Elaine, who I had worked with through the hospital for years," Owens said. "I knew her passion for the Hispanic programs she had always been involved with. And so, when she called and said we need a little bit of help. Would you consider it? Well, I didn't have a whole lot of choice. And I've enjoyed it ever since."

Owens said the first thing they did was take a step back to evaluate and plan.

"I found out we have a lot of good people involved in the advisory capacity and other capacities," Owens commented. "That we had a pretty significant follow ship, but we were not meeting on schedules and we were not making progress in terms of a business plan. And so, the first thing to do was to assess the risk and assess all of the issues, which took about a year to do. And then to decide future wise how to approach it. I would say the greatest challenge we had was to think out of the box."

Gomez said they must change and expand right along with the community they work to serve.

"When we first moved here this was a great place," Gomez said. "But right now the Hispanic community has grown a lot and it is expected to keep growing. This is just not enough for the services we provide. We have conflicts with the schedules for different classes. We have to move tables and chairs around to try and accommodate Spanish classes, English classes for the after-school program. So, definitely there is a need for more space."

This project has been in the works for about four years.

During this time they've been hard at work, but will need the help of the public to make this building a reality.

"We have raised about 50% of the needed funds to accomplish this project," Gomez said proudly. "This is just the kickoff for our campaign. We are still applying for different grant opportunities and you are going to hear a lot about the different events that we are having, just looking for the support of the community in order to meet our goal that is close to $900,000."

The new facility will be twice the size of the building they currently reside in.

If they manage to raise the rest of the funds they need to start the build, they hope to be in their new building sometime in 2016.

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