Step into the Sacred Heart Center, an unassuming building located just south of downtown Richmond, and you’ll immediately feel a welcoming sense of home, or sentirse como en casa. It serves as a hub for Richmond’s Latino community and its mission is to open opportunities for their economic and social integration, family success and community leadership. On any given day, you’ll find classrooms full of adult learners honing their English skills, bi-lingual children singing and creating, parents accessing legal and medical services and dozens of other offerings throughout the building.
The Center was established nearly three decades ago when the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) chose Sacred Heart as a site to engage the local African American community for work of service and empowerment. Sacred Heart Center was established and met critical needs in the community through innovative programming. By 2008 the area had experienced a dramatic population decline and demographics shifted. Sacred Heart Church across the street from the Center had become over 90% Latino and a trusted institution within the Richmond area Latino community. The Center’s board led the Center in adapting programming to the changing demographics. In 2011, the board adopted its current mission and vision with a focus on the Latino community.
Today, the Center is empowering the local Latino community and helping individuals find a sense of place and belonging. Executive director Tanya Gonzalez says she compares Sacred Heart Center (SHC) to an oasis in a desert where plants are nurtured and growth begins to multiply. She added that she is continually amazed by the strength, resilience and hope of the people who enter SHC each day.
Ways you can support the Sacred Heart Center:
- Time – Reach out to volunteer coordinator, Sarah Ochs, at 804-230-4399 ext 8. Sarah works with SHC staff and volunteers to help facilitate the many services the center offers. Your skills may be put to use by teaching English, helping with citizenship classes, cleaning the center, etc.
- Talent – Sacred Heart Center is seeking individuals with expertise in the areas of communications and graphic design. Specifically, the center needs help managing their weekly and monthly communication channels, including newsletters and brochures. Additionally, consulting help for program evaluation and data collection would also be helpful.
- Treasure – Consider making a charitable donation to Sacred Heart Center, which ensure the continuation of critical services and opportunities to the Latino community in Richmond.
*See Part 1 of this blog series, an interview with a donor at The Community Foundation who learned about The Sacred Heart Center and was immediately moved to action.