2017-08-20 / Insight

Hispanic Service Center aims to expand outreach into community

810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com

Hispanic Service Center director Lourdes Emke shows off an example of Mexican bingo, a game they play during senior lunches every other Wednesday. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese Hispanic Service Center director Lourdes Emke shows off an example of Mexican bingo, a game they play during senior lunches every other Wednesday. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese IMLAY CITY — The Hispanic Services Center (HSC) in downtown Imlay City has been offering its aid to the people of Lapeer County for more than 40 years, but according to director Lourdes Emke, there’s always more work to be done expanding the Center’s reach in the community.

Emke, along with Senior Program Coordinator Rosa Mendez, are the only two staffers at a facility that routinely provides services to more than 200 people a month. The services are all-encompassing as well, featuring utility assistance, a food pantry, translation and transportation services and Lapeer

County’s only family shelter.

“If anyone comes in for help, we’ll help anybody,” said Emke. “Lately, for whatever reason, we’ll get a couple hundred people coming through the door each month.” Emke pointed out that while many services the Center provides are geared toward the area’s Hispanic population, the organization will provide assistance to anyone who needs it, regardless of race.

While the Center works in cooperation with several other organizations like The

Valley Area Agency on Aging (VAAA), the Salvation Army, and the Michigan State Housing Development

Authority (MSHDA) and receives private donations, Emke said the one resource that always seems in short supply is able-bodied volunteers.

“We’re having a hard time finding volunteers,” said Emke. “Our usual volunteers are getting older and aren’t having the free time.” Emke said the Center is always willing to take on volunteers to help with cleaning, data entry or event preparation.

According to Emke, her goal when Imlay City schools resume session in a few weeks is to work with the councilors at the high school to encourage young students to share some time and youthful exuberance to the cause of helping those in the community who need it the most. “We’re hoping to get students to come help out,” she said. “We always need help with putting information into the computer, help with the food pantry and help with the shelter.”

Emke, Mendez and the HSC volunteers are currently preparing to hold their first fundraiser. Taking place at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Imlay City on Sept. 16 — the Mexican Independence Day — the Center will provide authentic Mexican cuisine from noon to 4 p.m. On the menu will be sopes, pozole and tacos de carne asada, and money raised during the event will go toward improving the facility’s shelters. HSC is working with two area churches, Imlay City United Methodist Church and St. Paul Lutheran, to prepare the fundraiser.

In addition to the fundraiser planned for next month, Emke said that every second Wednesday, HSC prepares a senior lunch, to which any senior is invited. The menu regularly features traditional Mexican dishes and during the luncheon, they play “Mexican Bingo” — a form of bingo using Spanish symbols.

“Any senior is welcome,” said Emke. “The food is 99 percent traditional. We have volunteer ladies who come in and prepare the lunch, and we also invite city officials like police, fire dept. to come out.” Each lunch begins at noon, with the next one scheduled for Wednesday (Aug. 23).

Emke said the goal of the fundraiser and the lunches, in addition to helping the community, is to further be a part of Imlay City, and Lapeer County at large. “We’ve been open for 42 plus years and when I started 13 months ago we didn’t even have a sign outside,” said Emke. “We want to get the HSC out there and extend it into the community.”

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