CLEVELAND SPANISH AMERICAN COMMITTEE – SERVING WITH LOVE

By:  Zayra Ramos-Ortiz
 
“This people are looking for help, this people knows that somewhere, somehow we are going to help them and we help everybody that come in, it could be White American, Hispanic, African American, Chinese, Arabic, any race doesn’t matter, we help them to achieve success in whatever they are looking for.”
CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Spanish American Committee (SAC) will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.  Since their opening back in 1966 this organization has been serving the area’s Hispanic population. It was established to enhance the capacity of Hispanics to achieve economic well-being, to participate fully in society and to enjoy a full and productive life. With an annual operating budget of $900 thousand, the Spanish American Committee serves more than 6,000 clients a year. As the primary provider of Hispanic focused human services in the region, the Spanish American Committee impacts economic and social development in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the state. Its current Executive Director is Ramonita Vargas.
Ramonita Vargas, started working for SAC more than 30 years ago.  Like many other persons do, she stopped at SAC to get help looking for a job and took a clerical training that was offered on those days.  She was hired as an intake person. Later on, she took another job training at City of Cleveland and went to work for Torres & Sons where she learned how to do accounting.  After 6 months working for this company, the Executive Director of SAC in 1978, Daniel Masarana, called her and offered a position as a Secretary Bookkeeper, then two years and a half later she became the Accountant for the Company where she worked for 26 years until she became the Executive Director.  She has held this position for the past six and a half years and has been the longest lasting CEO for this organization.
After a tour on the facility and given her the thanks for this interview, I asked her: How this organization has lasted 50 years? Ms. Vargas answer surprised me, “there are a lot of organizations out there, but this organization is the most caring of all, we do not mistreat anyone that walks through that door, we treat every one of them with respect.  This people are looking for help, this people knows that somewhere, somehow we are going to help them and we help everybody that come in, it could be White American, Hispanic, African American, Chinese, Arabic, any race doesn’t matter, we help them to achieve success in whatever they are looking for.”
What this organization offers to the public? “The Spanish American Committee offers their clients various programs. These programs are: A Family First Program, the Day Care Center, a housing program, financial literacy, and GED and English as a Second Language classes. I have a manager for each program, four in total.” Ms. Vargas replied while at the same time introduced me to all of her managers.
What is the Family First program?  This program was developed last year and takes care of jobs and families issues.  Its manager is Efrain Soto.  He clarified that “this program includes Job readiness, where its goal is to prepare people for work; job placement, that is to connect people with the job; and, job retention, where people is committed to retain the job.  He continued, “we had a program called Employment but every time we set people on a job there were other issues and they came back.  We figure out that got to be something creative to help the individual to take care of that barriers, could be a new home, financial support,  how to create a budget. That’s why we created this program, once you know you can take care of your family first, you know you are not going to leave the job and comeback.  For us is better to deal with this issues in the beginning.”
The manager at the Day Care Center is Nadia Arez. The Day Care Center is a learning center where kids from 2 ½ years to 12 are taught the 7 scholar domains in both languages, Spanish and English. 87 kids are members of this program and there are 5 classrooms.   Free transportation is offered to the attendees of this program.  
What are your responsibilities? I questioned Ms. Arez. “I am the coordinator and in charge of the date of date operations. I have 8 people working for me and my duties includes recruiting children, making sure their schedule are in a timely basis, the breakfast, lunch and snack are being served according to the guidelines of USDA.”
The Housing Program is administered by Frances Cintron, HUD Certified, and includes all the needs of housing.  She just finished her financial management course at Tri-C.  Also, she is certified as a financial counselor. Among 800 to 900 people are served during a year in this program.
I enquired Ms. Cintron, what is presented in this program?  “The Housing Program has several divisions.  The home buying program offers a monthly class on how to buy a house from step 1 to step 10. The foreclosure program prepare the client from foreclose.  The rental assistant program, help the people to get a lower rate in their rent. And the homeless program help clients to get shelter”, was Ms. Cintron response.
Who supply funding for this programs? was my next question. Ms. Cintron explained to me, “All this programs are funded by the Government City of Cleveland, the National Council of La Raza, Third Federal and Bank of America. We have the only one certified HUD Hispanic housing counseling in the state of Ohio funded by the National Council of La Raza and the City of Cleveland.”
The Financial Literacy program is designed to give individuals the ability to understand basic finance and their own financial situation.  This program includes budgeting to create savings, debt reduction & asset building, building a good credit rating and consumer protection.  Classes are held twice a month.
Concluding this interview, Ms. Vargas said to me, “this organization is run by my managers.  I have an outstanding crew and the community knows it, because we serve with love. This organization has given me a lot in my life.  I raised my kids working in this place. I love this organization and I love the community we work with.  I was a common person that came looking for help to this agency and this agency helped me out so much in my life.”
Ramonita Vargas Cleveland Comite Hispano 2
The Housing Program is administered by Frances Cintron, HUD Certified, and includes all the needs of housing.  She just finished her financial management course at Tri-C.  Also, she is certified as a financial counselor. Among 800 to 900 people are served during a year in this program.
I enquired Ms. Cintron, what is presented in this program?  “The Housing Program has several divisions.  The home buying program offers a monthly class on how to buy a house from step 1 to step 10. The foreclosure program prepare the client from foreclose.  The rental assistant program, help the people to get a lower rate in their rent. And the homeless program help clients to get shelter”, was Ms. Cintron response.
Who supply funding for this programs? was my next question. Ms. Cintron explained to me, “All this programs are funded by the Government City of Cleveland, the National Council of La Raza, Third Federal and Bank of America. We have the only one certified HUD Hispanic housing counseling in the state of Ohio funded by the National Council of La Raza and the City of Cleveland.”
The Financial Literacy program is designed to give individuals the ability to understand basic finance and their own financial situation.  This program includes budgeting to create savings, debt reduction & asset building, building a good credit rating and consumer protection.  Classes are held twice a month.
Concluding this interview, Ms. Vargas said to me, “this organization is run by my managers.  I have an outstanding crew and the community knows it, because we serve with love. This organization has given me a lot in my life.  I raised my kids working in this place. I love this organization and I love the community we work with.  I was a common person that came looking for help to this agency and this agency helped me out so much in my life.”
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