SILER CITY — An hour before the grand opening celebration for The Hispanic Liaison, hoards of people flooded the new space at 404 N. Holly Ave., decorated with vibrant announcements for Hispanic Heritage Fiesta, artwork and a life-size “mojiganga” sculpture.
English and Spanish conversations floated through the air as employees guided community members through the conference rooms, offices and event spaces.
“This is another milestone,” Deputy Director Hannia Benitez said. “It’s really nice to have a place to call our own home.”
Employees dressed in yellow and dark blue Hispanic Liaison shirts invited guests to enjoy refreshments and tamales in the backyard of the building, waiting for the speeches to start at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 27.
Executive Director Ilana Dubester addressed the crowd of around 70 guests who sat and stood to hear her and others speak.
Dubester started her speech by recognizing how far the non-profit has come: from having to close its doors in 2015, reopening its doors in 2016, opening a satellite office in Sanford, growing from a team of two to 13, and having a successful youth program.
She also thanked many people and organizations who helped the organization move to the new location from 105 E. Second St., including but not limited to past and present staff, Triangle Community Foundation, NicholsonPham Law and O'Mara Landscaping & Lawn Care.
The new Hispanic Liaison space, which they moved to during the beginning of June, is more spacious with a lobby area, conference room, two bathrooms, offices and shared spaces for clients, and parents and youth from the Orgullo Latinx Pride program.
During the celebration’s speech, Dubester passed along the microphone to another important figure: Selina Lopez. She is the program director of the Orgullo Latinx Pride program, which helps high school students graduate high school and work towards attending college.
The program boasts 75 participants across Jordan-Matthews and Seaforth High Schools.
“They truly are the heart of my program and the big why of why I'm still here,” Lopez said.
Anthony Santiago Hernandez, rising senior at Jordan-Matthews High School spoke on the effects the program has had on his family and himself. His brother Carlos went through the program and attended UNC Chapel Hill.
“I learned to advocate for myself,” Anthony said. “I learned to be confident and I learned to love myself.”
While he was hesitant about joining the program at first, he said it had a significant impact on him, becoming less shy and aspiring to go to UNC-CH, just like his brother.
Moreover, Anthony’s mother Celsa Hernandez Jimenez also spoke at the celebration. She said she learned many things through both of her sons’ participation in the program and gave thanks to The Hispanic Liaison.
“Now, Anthony wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps to go to college,” she said. “Before that [joinging the program], attending university was not in his [Anthony] plans. For that and many other reasons, I want to thank you [the non-profit].”
At the end of the ceremony, Dubester invited the attendees to the front of the building to cut the ribbon, joined by Board of Director President and past program participant Eleazer Reyna Ocampo.
And just like guests familiar with the volunteers and workers received a warm hug upon arrival, they left with more hugs, food and Latin music on their way home.