Stories of Change

Jaime Garcia, left, with volunteers Ximena and Carlos and the CWS School Kits that they will distribute. Photo courtesy Centro de Informacion.

During challenging times, a smile for students in Illinois

Centro de Informacion serves the Spanish-speaking residents of Elgin, IL and surrounding communities. Originally founded in 1972 to help the area’s small Spanish-speaking population, they have expanded over the decades as the number of Spanish speakers in the area has also grown.

Many of the organization’s clients are immigrants. “For the last 48 years, Centro has served as the place for immigrants to whom language and culture present barriers to ask questions, obtain bilingual help, and to build skills,” they say. “Bilingual staff provide interpretation help, assistance in filling out forms in English such as consumer protection, medical cards, food stamps, and claims for unemployment benefits among others, advocacy in resolving housing and employment disputes, and help in developing life skills, financial literacy, and parenting skills.” 

This year, the pandemic and its effects have led to extra challenge for many of Centro’s clients. “With the pandemic, many parents have lost their jobs. So that is a definite challenge. Some of our clients are undocumented, so they won’t receive government assistance like a stimulus check. However, we do have funding from grants for this like medical bills, utility bills, food. But when you don’t have a safety net like so many others do, it is very hard.”

Usually, Centro hosts back-to-school resource fairs for families. Among the other support and information they offer, they also hand out CWS School Kits. “The kids look forward to the resource fair every year! We have had families that come from years when they have several children and they love it,” says executive director Jaime Garcia.

We can all remember the thrill of having fresh new school supplies to face a new year. And with your help, more students are getting to experience that thrill through the CWS School Kits that Centro distributes. During the pandemic when so much is uncertain, this joy is extra special. “You are making a lot of children smile and laugh. Sometimes in times like this, the kids need to use an old, ripped backpack and reusing supplies for the school year,” says Jaime. “But just imagine their faces when they see they get a new school kit!”

“Just imagine their faces and know you did that. So, thank you!”

Centro de Informacion is also part of the Elgin CROP Hunger Walk, sponsored by CWS. They help organize the event and receive a grant for their ongoing work to fight hunger in Elgin each year.