Members of Lincoln Countyâ€™s growing Latino population will soon have a new resource available to them.
The Centro Multicultural de Esperanza (The Multicultural Center of Hope, in English), is coming together at Boger City United Methodist Church.
â€œIâ€™m really excited about the Latino center that weâ€™ve begun,â€ said the Rev. Keys Pendleton, who is one of the founders of the group.
Initially the center will be located in the church. It will offer legal aid, information about the school systems, support in becoming a naturalized citizen, English language practice and an Internet cafÐ¹ so people can communicate with relatives in their home country.
Eventually, the center plans to offer daycare and will be located at a separate facility from the church.
â€œThe Internet cafÐ¹ will be the easy part,â€ said Pendleton. He indicated that the church has had money for four years to purchase computers.
The centerâ€™s most pressing issue right now is obtaining non-profit status from the IRS. The application for the status, which allows funds raised by the group not to be taxed, is 33 pages long. It can take the IRS anywhere from six to nine months to process the form.
Until then, the center will run under the non-profit status of the Gaston branch of the UMC.
Already the group is applying for a Duke Endowment grant for $50,000. Duke Endowments gives to rural Methodist churches.
â€œI donâ€™t expect to get the full amount,â€ Pendleton said. â€œIâ€™ll be happy with $25,000.â€
Pendleton explained that Duke Endowment grants give money over three years, each year giving a decreasing amount.
â€œThat is the point where the local community will have to pick up the difference,â€ said Pendleton. â€œWithin four years, we will be self-sufficient.â€
The center will use the money to hire a part-time director. He hopes to have the center running by January.
During the meeting, Pendleton pointed out that Latinos are the largest minority group in Lincoln County, making up 10 percent of the population. In the next five years, it could rise by 26 percent.
â€œThis is about our two cultures bridging the gap between each other,â€ he said.
The Multicultural Center of Hope will hold its next meeting July 26 at 7 p.m. at Boger City United Methodist Church. For information, call 707-735-7513.by Caleb Hawkins