Since 2017, the group Evanston Latinos has worked to amplify the voices of the city’s Latinx community, and Rebeca Mendoza was the face of the nonprofits efforts.
She translated the city’s Covid medical information, resources and restrictions into Spanish to share with the Spanish-speaking community on Facebook. Mendoza secured grants to continue outreach. All the while carving more space for the city’s undocumented and immigrant families.
That chapter is coming to a close along with the end of the year, Mendoza said. In the new year, a new leader will lead Evanston Latinos.
“I want to give the opportunity for new leadership,” Mendoza said. “Our hope, as an organization, is to develop leaders. We want others to come in and help us grow.”
The group’s future
The Evanston Latinos board of directors will be selecting a new president in January. Mendoza will continue to be a part of the group.
Evanston Latinos is still a young, growing organization, Mendoza explained. The nonprofit has become more organized and focused since creating a board of directors two years ago.
Its board features well-known leadership, including City Council Member Juan Geracaris of the Ninth Ward, who is board vice president; and City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza. (They are unrelated).
“When you do work with marginalized communities, I think trust is very important, and she’s [Rebeca Mendoza] someone who the Latino community really trusts and the immigrant community really trusts,” Geracaris said. “She’s really been there for people, and that’s gonna be a hard thing for us to replace.”
The nonprofit prioritizes creating spaces for the city’s undocumented and immigrant families. The group has gathered support and recognition for its service to the Latinx community.
Last year, Evanston Community Foundation awarded Evanston Latinos multiple grants for its efforts to the city’s Latinx community.
The foundation selected the Evanston Latinos as one of its 58 recipients of the Root2Fruit grant in 2021. The nonprofit received $20,000 from the foundation to collect stories of the Latinx community in Evanston.
The nonprofit hosted its second annual fundraiser Sunday, Dec. 18. The fundraiser, similar to last year, wasn’t quite as profitable as the organization hoped. But that didn’t make the event any less memorable, Mendoza explained.
“We had a great time,” she said. “It was more of a friendraiser than a fundraiser.”
Evanston Latinos collected $1,700 from the event at St Nicholas Church.
The money will be used to help undocumented, immigrant and mixed status families in the city pay their utility bills. Mendoza hopes the funds will stretch to at least 15 families but the board will decide exactly how the money will be divided.
“We’re hoping to help families that are behind on their utility bills so they could start fresh in the new year,” Mendoza explained.
The fun in the fundraiser
The fundraiser was an opportunity to share authentic Mexican cuisine and some laughs. The organization’s Promotoras served up a Mexican-style brunch. The women stayed up till 1 a.m. the night before preparing tamales, pozole, ponche and pan dulce (sweet bread).
The Promotoras are a group of women who are community health workers. Evanston Latinos partnered with Young Women’s Christian Association to give the Promotoras training to learn resources for dealing with domestic violence.
The Promotoras are using the Root2Fruit grant to work on racial healing. They’ve been documenting the stories of the Latinx community in Evanston.
Next year, Mendoza hopes Evanston Latinos can focus more of its resources on supporting entrepreneurs. Some of the Promotoras are excellent cooks who are interested in opening businesses but need financial support to get there, Mendoza explained.
One solution could be investing in a co-op community kitchen space, Mendoza said. This option could open the door for people who are interested in opening a restaurant. Investors would split the cost of the kitchen with others, which would make the investment less burdensome.
The board of directors would first have to approve the decision to help with economic and community development, but Mendoza said some board members are in support.
“Part of our role is helping our community be more comfortable in spaces that they generally aren’t,” Mendoza said.