Accent on leadership
Euvalcree links Latino families with an eye to improving community
Symbols, like photographs, can be worth many words. When the nonprofit group Euvalcree of Ontario, Oregon, adopted a winged beacon as its logo in November 2014, the message was as clear as a speech.
Euvalcree was an outgrowth of the Treasure Valley Community Resource Center, which was created in 2012 to address frustrations of the region’s Latino community. Under its first incarnation, the organization’s logo was a fist. But as the group shifted its focus, members realized another change was in order.
A beacon of hope
“With a fist, the only thing you will confront is another fist,” says Euvalcree Executive Director Gustavo Morales. “With Euvalcree, we wanted to symbolize a beacon of hope, and a commitment to ourselves re-establishing the passion for creating better places for our family and community.”
Though the nonprofit group is young, Euvalcree has galvanized a Latino population strong in number but underrepresented in leadership roles. That disparity troubled Ontario resident Maria Romero.
Romero says a perception persisted that area Latinos had little interest in civic affairs. Latinos make up 67% of Ontario School District students and 33% of Malheur County’s population. Yet Romero says Latinos are absent from city, county and school leadership roles.
A paralegal for 35 years with the Oregon Law Center, Romero began exploring how to launch nonprofit groups. She also canvassed people she knew, many but not all of whom worked in social services.
“I began having small meetings in the community asking folks, ‘What is needed? What keeps you awake at night? What would you like to see different?’”
Families: a priority
As the group that became Euvalcree evolved, one of its earliest tasks was to dispel the notion that Latino residents were uninterested in community issues. Morales points out that family is a top priority for Latinos — so much so, adults often work long hours in demanding jobs to support their children.
Morales says Euvalcree leaders understood that one key to inspiring time-pressed people to connect is to bring them together to relax and enjoy themselves.
“We get people by being happy. They have a great time and that provides an opportunity to network,” he says.
Family dances in the park, community barbecues and street gatherings have all been catalysts for forging such links, Morales says. Such events have drawn hundreds of celebrants who came together for something as simple as hot dogs, nachos and music. From these occasions, potential volunteers have been open to Euvalcree’s message, Morales says. The focus was on people, not frustration.
As a result, Euvalcree has inspired 65 participants to sign up for Celebrating Latino Leadership, a program designed to increase management and leadership skills while increasing Latino visibility in society. To date, 47 Ontario-area residents have completed the program, according to Morales.
In addition, Euvalcree is in the process of establishing a community resource center to help connect Latino residents with services they need to be successful citizens.
Connecting with resources
Morales and Romero say Euvalcree does not seek to duplicate existing services. Nor does it provide direct services. Instead, staff members seek to help residents solve their problems by connecting them with available resources. They also shepherd clients through the process of resolving their concerns.
For example, staffers may guide a renter with landlord problems to a mediator. They offer guidance on filing for naturalization status. Staff can direct adults where to register for GED instruction. They may also help a non-English speaker get access to health insurance.
Morales says he believes Euvalcree’s biggest achievement has been to stay true to its grassroots origins. Like any nonprofit group awarded grants, Euvalcree must comply with funding standards. But Morales says its emphasis is on people rather than institutions.
“A community will always have needs,” he says. “It’s how we address those needs that makes a difference.”
WHAT EUVALCREE MEANS:
“Euvalcree” comes from three Latin roots: “eu,” meaning “good,” “val,” meaning “valiant” or “strong” and “cree,” meaning “faith” or “belief.”
MEMBERS AND VOLUNTEERS:
Euvalcree is made up of nine board and 18 committee members, with about 75 volunteers. There are also four paid staff members.
Euvalcree received a $30,000 organizing grant in 2015 from the Northwest Health Foundation of Portland. Euvalcree was then chosen as a community partner by NWHF’s Healthy Beginnings + Healthy Communities Initiative and will receive financial support up to $400,000 over the next four years.
- Organizing the Children’s Day Celebration with 1,500 community members
- Providing basic English classes to domestic violence survivors in partnership with Project Dove, an agency providing shelter and services to sexual assault victims in Malheur County
- Organizing leadership training and educational outreach on signing up for health care
- Reaching 85 families through a Toys for Tots drive