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San Juan Center honors Hartford’s Hispanic immigrant heritage through its community outreach

The center is one of the city's oldest Latino nonprofits, opening its doors in 1957.

Hispanic Heritage month is a time of year that is especially notable for the San Juan Center in Hartford.

Staff said the heritage and rich history of the Hispanic community that laid the foundation for the organization to reach everyone in need.

Executive Director, Fernando Betancourt explained that the San Juan Center started as a community in 1957 to help acclimate migrants coming into the north end of Hartford.

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"They organized a community and created the San Juan Center,” Betancourt said. “Then it was eventually incorporated, as a nonprofit organization in 1971."

Betancourt said it's one of the oldest Latino nonprofit organizations in the state that provides various social services. With a big one being affordable housing.

"We own and manage 76 units for the elderly, on independent living for the elderly,” he added. “We also have more than 22 units for affordable housing, and ten as a prevention to homelessness."

Maria Martinez, the office administrator at the center, said she sees people from all backgrounds utilizing the San Juan Center's services. 

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"Sometimes housing, sometimes shelter, sometimes clothing,” Martinez explained. “Sometimes is even an appointment. Sometimes financial assistance in you know, rental in deposits,"

Martinez said the list goes on, but no matter what they will try to help no matter one's need or ethnicity. 

"Whatever needs they have in we are able to provide at the moment; if we're not able, we always refer them or guide them through other resources in the community,” she added.

One person who could attest is Jacqueline Richardson. 

"I went through some personal things,” she explained . “I could come here, and I can talk to any one of these ladies. They will not just be people that help you find, you know, other things; they were there for you in every aspect of the world; they are there for you. And it doesn't have to be Spanish speaking; everyone is welcome, everyone. "

Richardson has been with the center for three years and received employment assistance.

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"I lost my job, and I came back and they helped me find a job. Because of COVID, I also lost that job. And I came back again, and now I have another job." 

She said the San Juan Center changed her life. 

"It's a dream come true in the sense that you see how our community grows, and improves,” Betancourt added.  "The San Juan center is there all along in that process. So we're very proud of what we do."

Betancourt said he loves hearing the stories and transformations of the San Juan Center clients and says they have big plans to continue its outreach right here in the community. 

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