OLA of Eastern Long Island’s Executive Director Minerva Perez proudly joined three other non-profit leaders representing Long Island for a Latino Roundtable at the invitation of the Office of Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday, January 18. Other representatives in attendance were: George Siberon, Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association; Gil Bernardin, Círculo de la Hispanidad and Evergreen Charter School; and Pilar Moya-Mancera, Housing Help, Inc.
The Long Island Hispanic Bar Association was recently asked by Governor Hochul to share the news from its area of representation of Long Island. LIHBA made it clear that its constituents are in need of greater attention and support across the island, and particularly on the East End. This Latino Roundtable was the result of this concern and the commitment to advocacy by the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association. Governor Hochul made good on her promise to learn more.
OLA has been working collaboratively with the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association to increase access for its Latino community, so often left with no option for attorneys who are bilingual and bicultural. With LIHBA leading the agenda, OLA’s Executive Director Minerva Perez presented first to Governor Hochul, sharing the organization’s 22-year commitment to the East End of Long Island. Perez emphasized OLA’s mission to build a healthier, safer, and more equitable region for all, with a focus on the community’s Latino and immigrant members who are far too often victimized, voiceless, and vulnerable. Wage theft, housing exploitation, and lack of services and access to address adolescent mental health concerns were the central themes of OLA’s presentation at this Latino Roundtable.
“Larger non-profit organizations have not met the needs of our full community. A better RFP process is desperately needed, with funding opportunities available for smaller organizations who are doing the work,” Perez said. “A clear and effective method to ensure accountability on the part of larger mental health organizations that have been challenged by the shifting demographics of our 24 East End school districts is what’s missing. Solutions exist. One such way forward is to fully support OLA’s Youth Connect model that is actively engaging middle and high school students on difficult issues. We offer a committed bilingual and multicultural helpline available 7 days a week, along with programs and facilitated workshops to bring deeper understanding and open dialogue between students and parents, houses of faith, peers, and clinical providers. We are filling a need that bureaucracy cannot.”
Governor Hochul offered the idea of breaking up some of the standard RFPs and suggested possible micro-funding to allow for greater access and less bureaucracy for smaller organizations in an effort to be more liberated in their support and services on the ground level. This addresses the immediate and urgent needs of these organizations’ direct communities. OLA is very supportive of the Governor’s idea, welcomes this response, and stands ready to implement these services as resources are more readily available in size and scope. The other organizations expressed similar concerns and were met with openness and a solution-oriented commitment by Governor Hochul with assurances to continue to meet and better understand the specific needs addressed.
“We are grateful and honored to be at the table. OLA is proud to stand with our sister organizations to represent our Latino community in every possible way. We thank the governor for her time and for listening to our individual and collective concerns. We also thank her for making a commitment to making our community’s specific needs a priority. We look forward to staying at the table and continuing to work together as allies to make our East End of Long Island and the state of New York more equitable for all,” said OLA’s Executive Director Minerva Perez.
Founded in 2002, OLA of Eastern Long Island works to create a more equitable East End for Latino immigrants through advocating for just and inclusive government and school policies; protecting families; nurturing power and unity among Latinos through leadership workshops and other programs; and building bridges among different sectors of the East End community through celebrating arts and culture.