El Centro Latino: A Precious Resource for This Community

The day before Thanksgiving, El Centro Latino shut its operations down. For the past five years or so my office suite at People of Faith Against the Death Penalty has been located right next to El Centro Latino’s offices in downtown Carrboro. Every day year after year my colleagues and I saw scores of people enter El Centro for help and receive it. Every day we saw and heard happy children run and play and get tutored around the officesof El Centro. We saw adults taking classes. Every day El Centro’s clients overflowed into the hallways of the building. Every day we saw dedicated and caring staff members of El Centro try meet the needs of so many.

I often wondered how they managed. It was clearly exhausting and unrelenting work.

But even though I was so close and saw the amazing work theywere doing I think I took El Centro Latino for granted. I think our community probably has too. Had I not seen it all I would not have known the great work being done there.

El Centro Latino is really a gem for this community. It is obvious that El Centro met enormous needs faced by people every day in our community.

This is not just an unfortunate end to a nonprofit due totough economic times. I wonder what will happen now to those real men and women and boys and girls I saw every day who obviously were facing serious hardship sin their lives and were trying to do something to help themselves.

Where will they go now?

I read that El Centro’s leadership is reassessing how to go forward. My best wishes, our bestwishes, are not enough. All I know is that the long-term staffers there gave and gave and gave to their clients.

To really sustain a program such as El Centro our community would have to recognize the privilege we have been given by their work and the precious resource they have created for this community.


Stephen has described this loss so well.  In some ways it is no surprise that ECL's work was largely unseen and unappreciated. Our Latino immigrant population is largely unseen and unappreciated.  We have taken the services of both for granted.Sometimes something has to go away for a more healthy, beautiful thing to take its place. I hope that may be true in this case.  Certainly there is still a need for the direct services and community organizing that ECL has provided.


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