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At 30, Latin American Coalition Looks Back On Decades of Growth

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Latin American Coalition
The Latin American Coalition began as a promoter of cultural events, but now offers a variety of social services to Latino residents and new immigrants.

Charlotte's Latin American Coalition celebrates its 30th birthday Thursday. It's seen big changes since its founding by Latino leaders who wanted to organize cultural events for what then was still a small community.

Latinos were less than 2% of Charlotte's population then. Now, they account for 14%. As the community grew, so did its needs, said executive director Jose Hernandez-Paris.

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Latin American Coalition
Jose Hernandez-Paris

"They started providing some services like interpretation and translation mostly, and to help with school registration and just matters of people moving in here and getting acquainted and getting their lease and everything taken care of. And from there, the coalition started providing more advocacy services," said Hernandez-Paris, who was an early member.

The coalition now has 14 employees and a million-dollar budget. And it has become an important community services center for both residents and new arrivals to the area.

To cope with COVID-19 earlier this year, they started a Spanish-language help line. And coalition staff regularly help people with immigration applications and housing issues.

"We now have an immigration law clinic, a youth education center, an immigrant welcome center, and an economic mobility center," Hernandez-Paris said.

"So we've really grown and those centers are based on the needs that our community has had," he said.

La Coalición, as it is known among Spanish speakers, now serves more than 6,000 families a year.

They're celebrating Thursday with a 30th anniversary video and memories on social media.

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