Since 2000, Columbian Eduardo Crespi has run a community center called El Centro Latino. On this week's Thinking Out Loud, KBIA's Darren Hellwege talked with Crespi. KBIA's Trevor Harris also met some Columbia residents who were at the center on a recent Monday.
When asked about the mission of the organization, El Centro Latino Executive Director Eduardo Crespi said
Centro Latino opened its doors in the year 2000 and since then we have been helping the immigrant population to assimilate and accommodate to our community. We provide guidance for resources in terms of health, education and legal access....
The community is becoming really diverse. At the beginning we worked mostly with Latino families. But we've seen increase in immigrant families in the neighborhood. We are at the corner of Garth and Lynn, so we are in the heart of the neighborhood. We see African refugees that have been displaced from war and crime. We also see people from the Middle East including Iraqi families, families from Iran and from Libya. We welcome everyone to come to El Centro Latino and if they need any help we can provide we do offer it: resources, referrals, things like that.
Rock Bridge High School junior Luis Mendez was at El Centro Latino this past Monday working his on algebra homework. Asked what El Centro Latino means to him, he said:
This is a place where kids of all ages can come for help with their homework and to learn about healthier lifestyles. There is a program here every week that's Kids in the Kitchen and it teaches the kids how to prepare their own healthy snacks. They also take them outside whenever the weather is nice to play games to promote physical activity to stay healthy and fit. So, it's not just homework and studying. It's also having fun outside and learning how to take better care of your body.
El Centro Latino hosts a fundraiser from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at 609 North Garth Avenue in Columbia. More details are online.