It was early March, and Katia had contracted COVID-19. Her husband, Abel, worked at a place that became a COVID-19 hotspot, and they decided it was better for them that he quit his job. What they didn’t expect was that Abel’s second job as a staff aide at Denver Public Schools would be cut, nor that Katia will be placed in furlough at her workplace. In May, the couple was left with no income. But then, UnidosUS Affiliate Mi Casa Resource Center (MCRC), an Esperanza/Hope Fund grantee, entered their lives.
By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS
Katia remembers that time, the moment when she and her husband realized they needed to reach out for help. “That’s when we connected with Michael Perez at Mi Casa,” she says.
MCRC, or Mi Casa as it’s known by its clients, was quick in responding to the pandemic. As an organization that educates, trains, and supports youth and adults on their path to economic success, they have quickly adjusted their services to cover the growing needs brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the immediate aftermath of the shutdown, MCRC conducted a community needs assessment of nearly 900 of their active participants: “With the help of Marzano Research, we compiled a report of the data that is guiding our crisis support and recovery response,” the team at Mi Casa explains. This research made clear that the national trend of the pandemic having a disproportionate impact on the health and finances of Latinos and Blacks was also true in Colorado, “with women taking a particularly hard hit,” Monique Lovato, CEO of Mi Casa Resource Center, says.
Their deep understanding of how the pandemic was affecting their participants and the community at large, made of MCRC a huge support for Katia and her husband to weather the storm.
Michael Perez is a Career Coach at Mi Casa, with experience in case management, career counseling, recruiting, human resources, and career development coaching. He quickly gained Abel’s trust, “and that says a lot about him,” Katia says. “He knew exactly how to connect with Abel by relating to him as a professional Latino male. As a result, Abel has gained immeasurable confidence,” she continues.
But Michael Perez has also been a big support for Katia, who is now thinking about different ideas of where she wants to take her career and what opportunities are available for her at the moment. “Michael is always available and approachable!” Katia emphasizes.
ADJUSTING TO THE COVID ECONOMY
In 2019, Mi Casa adopted a new strategic framework and core values, including a relentlessness in their response to a changing world. This year’s pandemic has made that value more prominent, and they have kept their commitment to it. “Since the closure of MCRC’s facility in March, the organization has transformed its service delivery model to provide support to its participant community without interruption,” they explain in their community needs assessment.
This research arrived to the conclusion that employers, training organizations, higher education, government, and funders needed to “think creatively about supporting a pivot toward sectors that are more stable or able to grow in a COVID economy,” MCRC’s team shares.
This UnidosUS Affiliate was ready to take on the challenge 2020 has brought to their 2,000 active participants, and as one of our Esperanza/Hope Fund grantees, they have been able to use this flexible funding to “adapt to an uncertain time and continue our strong support to those who need it most.”
In their own words, these are the highlights of their 2020 COVID-19 support and recovery efforts:
- “We pivoted all training, consulting, coaching, webinar, and workshop services online to continue serving our participants even under stay-at-home orders.”
- “We offered our summer Financial Services training in a first ever fully blended learning environment and enrolled 21 participants, more than ever before.”
- “We are expanding our reach: our Business Pathways training, also offered through blended learning, has enrolled participants from all across Colorado, not just in the Denver Metro Area.”
- “We helped small business owners pivot to meet the new environment.”
- “We implemented a strategy to address digital equity that provides enrolled participants with devices for the duration of their training and a gift card for purchase of a device after graduation.”
While the reality of widespread access to a vaccine is getting closer, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are going to be felt for years to come. That’s why UnidosUS is strongly supporting our Affiliates in the unclear road ahead. “In this time of uncertainty, Mi Casa Resource Center is relentless in our response to a changing world and will continue to meet the growing demand of our vulnerable community members,” MCRC concludes.