A Brighter Future for Latino Families in Cold Spring, Minnesota
Mayuli Bales unlocks the door of a small house across the street from St. Boniface Church in Cold Spring, Minnesota. Since 2004 this house has been the location of Casa Guadalupe Hispanic Ministries, a blend of social services and Christian community. The organization is a ‘prophetic witness to the Gospel’s call to service and justice’, but the cost of service has Mayuli worried and she is working today to fill gaps in her 2011 budget. Fortunately, she has volunteers and a strong women’s group to work with her.
In February of 1996 a raid by the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service, (now Immigration and Customs Enforcement), took place at a corporate meat packing plant in Cold Spring. Many workers without proper papers were deported, leaving the immigrant population shaken and vulnerable. St. Boniface Church opened a center for ‘friendship and hospitality’ in a trailer park populated by Hispanic workers serving the meat packing plant and other agricultural businesses of the area. In 2004 they moved the center to the small house where Mayuli has directed the organization for the past three years.
Today, Mayuli and dedicated volunteers, local residents and students of the Sociology program at St. Cloud State University, provide instruction in English as a Second Language and in Spanish. They provide interpreter and translator services, family sponsorship, and training in computer skills. The center helps provide handymen and babysitters. Yard and house cleaning is available. They’ve established a vibrant women’s group that is exploring entrepreneurship and they are proud of a supervised after-school program for Hispanic youth.
Finding themselves often segregated by language barriers, Latino women in Cold Spring have found friendship and relief at the center. “These women are resourceful,” Mayuli said. “Among other things they are currently imagining ways to become entrepreneurs. Manufacturing and selling brightly colored piñatas is one idea being discussed.” Programs at Casa Guadalupe rebuild self esteem and reduce anxiety caused by acculturative stress. The women’s group helps with the work, but they also transmit coping skills needed throughout the community.
Assisted by training received through the Latino Nonprofit Leadership Academy conducted by The Center for Leadership Innovation, Casa Guadalupe has grown in sophistication. They have formed an interracial board of directors and have received their 501c3 tax status.
Due to its success, Casa Guadalupe has growing pains. The nonprofit desperately needs additional full-time staff to meet growing demand. Volunteers and sociology department interns put in nearly 6,000 hours of service every year. They translate for patients at the local hospital and county jail. They assist families with legal issues and help ensure that families live in safe buildings. Casa Guadalupe works with kids K-12. Weekly they host a youth group for teens 13 to 20 years of age. 300 families regularly receive services, but that number is a fraction of the regional Hispanic community that Casa Guadalupe could potentially serve.
Mayuli and volunteers are busy writing grant proposals and coming up with ways to be self supporting including social enterprise. With the help of her board and many volunteers, Mayuli works daily to realize a bright future for Casa Guadalupe and the Hispanic families in Cold Spring, Minnesota.
Image Credit: Painting by Theresa Rosado, "On Prom Night I Danced with My Grandmother"