Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

National Hispanic Heritage Month runs through October 15

By Chris Chmura, American Red Cross volunteer

Our weather has started to cool in northern Ohio as we to shift from summer to fall. One of my favorite months is October, with its dramatic changes in weather, kids back in school, and the holiday season beginning to ramp up.

The American Red Cross celebrates this important time by acknowledging our strong relationship with the Latino community in recognizing National Hispanic Heritage month.

Last year, I was fortune enough to write about the American Red Cross’ Northern Ohio Latino initiative, explain why we need to focus on this cultural group and share ways to get involved. The fundamental principles of the Red Cross instruct us to help all people in times of need.

Latino initiative

The Northern Ohio Latino initiative’s mission is to deepen our relationship with this diverse community, provide education about services we can provide, offer tools and support regionally, and partner with local groups to bridge trust.

Why?  The short answer is that the growing Latino community has varying levels of connectivity to Red Cross services. One gap we discovered is the large percentage of Spanish-only speaking people who are disconnected from the Red Cross based on language barriers.

One way we continue to build on our momentum is to have strong partnerships with groups like HOLA Ohio, with their incredible leaders and strong members.

HOLA was founded in late 1999 as an informal group of Hispanic women in Lake County who wanted to help the growing Latino community, comprised of Mexican immigrant workers employed by area nurseries and their families. Few services were accessible to this demographic, and HOLA worked to bridge gaps. Today, HOLA is an award-winning, 501c3 charitable nonprofit organization which works with families across the state. HOLA is currently developing a Commercial Kitchen Incubator and Hispanic Community Center in Painesville.

HOLA’s work has been spotlighted in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Telemundo, and has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Torchlight Prize, a prestigious national award honoring community-driven work that empowers the Latino community. Recently, founding executive director of HOLA Ohio and the HOLA Hispanic Community Center Veronica Isabel Dahlberg was named a 2019 Crain’s Cleveland Business Woman of Note.

HOLA’s work in the community

HOLA and volunteers and employees with the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio have partnered in the past to install smoke alarms in the Latino community.

“HOLA is a key partner in helping us provide assistance to Hispanic residents who have been affected by home fires,” said Tom Revolinsky, Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “They help us with translation, give additional financial assistance and help overcome any cultural barriers to recovery.”

In October 2021, working with HOLA and the Painesville Fire Department, the Red Cross installed 62 smoke alarms in 25 homes in a largely Latino neighborhood.   Fire safety information was shared in Spanish and, according to Tom, was very well received by the community.

“HOLA is very grateful for our partnership with the Red Cross,” said Veronica Isabel Dahlberg, Executive Director HOLA Ohio and the HOLA Hispanic Community Center. “Working together, we have been able to assist Hispanic families in crisis, and also help with fire safety education and prevention, such as the installation of smoke alarms in the homes of Spanish-speaking families. There is no doubt that our combined efforts will save lives.”

Seeking Latino volunteers

The Red Cross of Northern Ohio has a need for Latino volunteers to help us grow our mission in their communities.

You can learn about being a volunteer here.

Web resources

Did you know that the American Red Cross has a Spanish language website? You can access it here.

Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross board member and volunteer

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