This past fiscal year was a tough one for Centro de Informacion, and its executive director Tuesday asked for support for the agency that serves thousands through offices in Elgin, Carpentersville and Hanover Park.
"This has been a trying year for us" due to the loss of state and local funding, Jaime Garcia said at Centro's annual Community Day luncheon Tuesday at the Elgin Country Club.
The agency laid off employees a couple of months ago and implemented a monthly furlough day, Garcia said. It now employs 17 people, providing services ranging from immigration to parenting skills, educational seminars and an emergency food pantry.
"We are right now working hard to stay even,"Garcia said, later adding, "We need your help and support. We need you, and your community needs you."
The luncheon's guest speaker, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chairman Martin "Marty" Castro, also exhorted people to support the 42-year-old agency's mission.
"There are few resources like Centro in the rest of the Chicago metro area," he said.
Castro was appointed to the commission by President Barack Obama in January 2011 and became chairman two months later. He is the first Latino to hold the post.
He is also an attorney and president and CEO of Castro Synergies, a consulting company.
Today's civil rights movement is about gay rights and marriage equality, Castro said.
He also equated today's "Dreamers," or young undocumented people who are now eligible for renewable work permits, to the 1960s civil rights activists known as "freedom riders." Castro added he believes the U.S. Congress eventually will give the green light to comprehensive immigration reform.
Castro called himself "a product of affirmative action," recalling how his family immigrated from Mexico in search of the American dream.
He learned English by participating in a Head Start early childhood education program and applied to college despite being told he should work in a steel mill, he said.
All children must be given access to high-quality education in order to compete in today's global economy, he said.
"I firmly believe education is the only significant exit strategy for poverty," he said.
Castro also asked people to recognize the contributions of Latino immigrants.
"They are not coming to beg. They are not coming to take," Castro said. "They are coming to create opportunities for themselves and by doing so, they create opportunities around them."
The luncheon also recognized three of Centro's longtime supporters: Linda Siete, manager of sales and operations of Reflejos, the Daily Herald's bilingual sister newspaper; Eira Corral, village clerk in Hanover Park; and Richard Floyd, president of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge and former president and CEO of Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin.
For more information about Centro de Informacion, visit centrodeinformacion.org or call (847) 695-9050.