The Hispanic American Center In Hanover bloomed in 2006, when Mirna Wildasin, her sister, Maria Perez, and Maria’s husband, Cesar Perez, offered translating and interpreting services between Hispanics and agencies like the police and hospital.
The services that the center provided quickly grew as new ones were identified. The center is currently working under the umbrella of the Hanover Council of Churches and provides a variety of classes and cultural events for area residents.
One of the most-popular courses offered is the citizenship class, which has drawn students from as far away as Chambersburg and Lancaster.
“One student from Lancaster said, they (meaning the place offering citizenship help in Lancaster) only help us with the application, you offer a class,” Wildasin said.
The center also holds an annual diversity summit in October. While this conference used to be simply about learning to embrace differences in cultures, it has now grown to include gender, sexual orientation, and abuse.
The Hispanic American Center will soon be opening a media center that will be available for everyone in the community.
With the assistance of a grant from United Health Care, the center has purchased 11 computers for its Frederick Street location. Although the center services primarily Hanover’s Hispanic population, the center will be open for everyone.
“A lot of Latinos spend hundreds of dollars trying to connect with families, we want to teach them the skills to be able to do it for little or no cost,” said Mirna Wildasin, one of the founders of the center.
For instance, by teaching a center patrons Skype, they can connect with friends and family in other countries for free, thus saving the cost of expensive phone cards.
Wildasin said that the next step in the center’s growth will be to become its own non-profit entity with 501(3)c status, which would allow the center to operate independently. This would allow the center to bring on someone to write grants. Another goal would be to have the funding to hire staff to keep the center open daily for a full day rather than just a few hours each day. Currently, everyone working for the center does it on a volunteer basis.