This year, our Affiliate of the Year Award gained a new meaning: in face of such overwhelming adversity—the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on Latinos, the racial injustices we face in the United States, and more—this award recognized resilient and adaptable community-based organizations who are fighting for Hispanics, including by adjusting their services to attend to the most pressing needs of our families. In a special recognition during the 2020 Capital Awards, Vice Chair of UnidosUS Board of Directors Luis Granados recognized our regional awardees and presented the Affiliate of the Year Award to Centro Campesino, from Florida City, Florida.
By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS
As Granados said during Capital Awards, our Affiliates are at the heart and soul of UnidosUS. For 38 years, we have presented one Affiliate from our network with the Affiliate of the Year Award, and five more organizations are recognized as the Regional awardees. This recognition, usually given at our Annual Conference, honors Affiliates whose partnership with UnidosUS has helped empower Latinos in their community. This year’s Affiliate of the Year honoree is Centro Campesino.
Since 1972, Centro Campesino has focused their work on the advancement of the Latino community, founded in response to the deplorable living conditions of farmworkers and other low-income families in South Florida. Their work for more than 40 years has been to empower families and support communities so they could be part of the American Dream.
As Luis Granados, also CEO of UnidosUS Affiliate MEDA, last year’s Affiliate of the Year, expressed, this is an organization that “has tirelessly and consistently worked towards empowering and strengthening their community, mainly farmworkers and the undocumented, to achieving equity, education, and economic opportunity.”
Centro Campesino has developed and strengthened the skill set and confidence of new homeowners, showed our youth how to advance their education, and helped their clients build assets and wealth.
This year, Centro Campesino has also been a champion to farmworkers and the undocumented in the Miami-Dade County, supporting them through the COVID-19 pandemic that has been especially devastating in Florida, and even fact-checked Governor DeSantis when he blamed our essential workers—farmworkers and Hispanics—for the rise or COVID-19 in the state.
“This honor is indeed a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Centro Campesino family,” John Martínez, the organization’s Executive Director, stated in his acceptance speech during UnidosUS 2020 Capital Awards ceremony. “We are so privileged to be working with farmworkers, immigrants, workers who are documented or undocumented, and other working families, all essential workers seeking the ‘American Dream’ of a better life, and opportunities for their children. Our families keep our economy thriving and continually reinvigorate our country.”
Together with Centro Campesino, five more organizations were recognized as Regional Affiliates of the Year for their exceptional response to the many challenges our communities are currently facing:
Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago, Illinois, is our Midwest Regional Affiliate of the Year
This organization, which is celebrating their 150th year anniversary in 2020, has launched their Community Relief Fund to fight the effects of the pandemic. By August 2020, they had raised more than $130,000 to alleviate the most critical and immediate needs of their participants, such as groceries, transportation, childcare, rent, and utilities. Erie House was also the ﬁrst organization in Chicago to launch a fund of this nature, with 100% of funds allocated directly for participants. Erie House has demonstrated a strong partnership with UnidosUS to empower Latinx immigrants through education, access to critical services, and advocacy, working together to create a just and inclusive society. “This is a great honor and a wonderful recognition,” said Kristin Chernawsky, MPS, Executive Director at Erie Neighborhood House.
Mi Casa Resource Center (MCRC) in Denver, Colorado, is our Far West Regional Affiliate of the Year
Back in 2019, adopting a new strategic framework and values, Mi Casa Resource Center established that they are relentless in response to a changing world. This new strategic framework came rapidly into play in 2020, and in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, MCRC paused their operations so they could understand the most urgent needs their participants had. Through their comprehensive community assessment, they responded to their clients’ needs providing basic resources, training on targeted skills to transition to a COVID-19 economic environment, working towards digital equity and access, and supporting participants to use their voice and advocate. MCRC has been a solid partner of UnidosUS in our strategic work. Kimberly Trauner, Grants Manager at Mi Casa Resource Center, expressed their gratitude for this award: “We are grateful for your continued support.”
AAMA in Houston, Texas, is our Texas Regional Affiliate of the Year
AAMA inspires and empowers Latinos to pursue their potential and achieve success through education, health, and leadership development. Their goal is to support families to create a stronger community. Following that goal, AAMA has stepped into civic engagement work, focusing on ensuring that their participants and communities are counted on this year’s census and registering voters to make our voices heard. As they celebrate their 50th anniversary, AAMA has also stepped into advocacy work during this pandemic. Joe Jimenez, President and Chief Executive Officer, felt excited and proud about the news, “Thank you for this wonderful news. On behalf of our Team, our Board of Directors and more importantly the students and families we serve, muchas gracias.”
The Chicano Federation of San Diego County in San Diego, California, is our California Regional Affiliate of the Year
For months, this organization has worked with the families they serve to support them through the pandemic, crafting a COVID-19 Community Response Plan that included food, cleaning supplies, and educational material distributions for families, tenants, and family childcare providers. They have also tirelessly advocated for rent moratoriums at San Diego city and county. Realizing that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 among Latinos and people of color is the result of decades of severe and intentional underfunding of our communities. The Chicano Federation has committed to not only supporting the families in their programs but to advocate for systemic change, going back to their roots in civil rights work. This organization is a firm partner of UnidosUS, working closely this year with us in our voter registration efforts. Nancy Maldonado, Chief Executive Officer at The Chicano Federation, shared how wonderful this news was: “This is such a validation of our team’s relentless hard work over the past year. This means a lot to us. THANK YOU!”
Dominico American Society of Queens (DASQ) in Corona, New York, is our Northeast Regional Affiliate of the Year
This organization found itself in the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States and, as they quickly safeguarded the safety of their staff, they also prepared a response to ensure their clients’ basic needs to survive were covered. DASQ gave our community boxes of food and gift cards for families to be able to feed themselves and use their scarce resources to be able to pay for rent. DASQ has been a committed partner of UnidosUS for decades, as they strive to create opportunities for Latinos through immigration services and naturalization classes, as well as education programs for our youth. Jose Tejada, Executive Director at DASQ shared: “Our board members, staff, volunteers, members and clients are very thrilled and honor to be recognized by UnidosUS with this prestigious award.”
Congratulations to all our awardees: you are an integral part of UnidosUS and your work helps to empower members of our community every day. Learn more about our Affiliate Network and their work on the ground through our social media channels following the hashtag #AffiliatesUnidos in Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.