By Jasmin Rojo
Old Town Lansing staff writer
OLD TOWN LANSING – A community comes together to help those in need, succeed.
Cristo Rey Community Center is a non-profit organization that supports lower class individuals with certain situations they may have. Since 1986, it has been opened for the public.
Located on North High Street in Old Town, Cristo Rey is also home to a community church.
With food banks, computer learning classes, tutoring and more, Cristo Rey Community Center works to aid people towards the right path.
Different programs and events
Old Town has been known to help Cristo Rey in several ways. Last year, the Old Town Commercial Association helped with a community food bank as well as a Thanksgiving feast.
The Old Town Commercial Association’s Executive Director Louise Gradwohl said it was a great experience to be a part of.
“We had a nice partnership with the food bank and benefited from it,” Gradwohl said. “It was a great turn out and was executed well.”
As one of the main priorities at Cristo Rey, the food bank is open weekly for those in need.
Cristo Rey’s Program Coordinator Cindy Benavides said it’s important to make sure every family gets what they need.
“As a weekly open distribution, I make sure to do the food orders, have fresh produce, and keep the food pantry up to date,” Benavides said. “Those who come in need to show a valid Michigan ID and two pieces of valid address verification.”
An after school program at Cristo Rey is available to families who aren’t able to pick up their children at school due to work. Supervised by a team of volunteers, the program takes care of children and assistants them with help on their homework. Tutors Gold Coast are excellent teachers for the children in need.
Volunteer Bill Lee said he enjoys the program.
“I just started volunteering but it has been great so far,” Lee said. “It’s rewarding to help others at a community center that gives for the better.”
Lee said older students from local schools contribute their time to the children as well.
“We all help out by reading to them or playing sports,” Lee said. “These kids deserve all that is given to them at Cristo Rey.”
Another program at Cristo Rey is Tech en la Casa/ Technology to Home. It helps Spanish speaking individuals with computer skills. This may include help through Microsoft Word, building resumes and more.
Undergraduate Coordinator for the Chicano/Latino Studies Program at Michigan State University, Esmeralda Perez de Lopez, helps Tech en la Casa by recruiting volunteers. Perez de Lopez mainly recruits students from MSU.
“The majority of the students who help out are from the Spanish department who take advantage of the opportunity,” Perez de Lopez said. “They made connections with the community members who looked to them as experts and this is a good motivation to continue their education.”
Once individuals accomplish the program, a graduation is then held at MSU. The most recent graduation was held at the Brody Complex on Monday April 7. They were handed out an award and thanked those who supported them.
Tech en la Casa/ Technology to Home continues to succeed and expand to other locations throughout the community.
Although Cristo Rey Community Center is known to help a large amount of the Latino community, Benavides said that is ultimately not true.
“That’s a misconception,” Benavides said. “At one time it was all Hispanics but as the years have evolved, it has been more white and black families.”
According to the 2010 Census from American FaceFinder, it states that over 75 percent of the Lansing community is home to White and American Indian families. It shows a large amount of poverty in the area as well within those races.
Benefits from working at Cristo Rey
MSU student Rosa Lopez has been a volunteer at Tech en la Casa/ Technology to Home for over two years. Joining because she wanted to build her resume, Lopez later realized how rewarding it was to help others.
“We laugh and tell stories and learn together,” Lopez said. “That’s what Tech en la Casa is all about; bringing the community together and help bridge the gap between the students and parent’s use in technology.”
As for Benavides, she said her job brings joy to her life.
“I wouldn’t have been here all these years if it wasn’t for the satisfaction and gratitude of helping others,” Benavides said. “You have to love what you do because otherwise, the job isn’t meant for you.”
Cristo Rey has expanded their offices with more than 10 programs and is available every day to the public.
To contact report Jasmin Rojo call: (224) 595-2854 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org