Latin American Association seeks space at the Mack Gaston Community Center | Local News

Dalton City Council members recently agreed to consider leasing space in the Mack Gaston Community Center from the Latin American Association (LAA).

Rafael Huerta, Northwest Georgia outreach director for the association, recently met with council members when they met as the city’s finance committee. He said the arrangement could benefit the association and the townspeople.

Founded in 1972 in the Atlanta metropolitan area, the association opened an office in Dalton on Morris Street three years ago.

The association focuses on five areas: civic engagement and advocacy, economic empowerment, education and youth services, stabilization and family welfare, and immigration services. While many of his services are Latino-specific, he doesn’t turn away anyone seeking help if they can provide a service or connect them with an agency that can.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 37.3% of Whitfield County’s estimated 102,848 residents are Latino. The Census Bureau reports that 48.5% of Dalton’s 34,285 residents are Latino.

Huerta is a longtime Dalton resident who has spent his professional career working with nonprofit organizations.

Huerta briefed board members on some of the association’s programs such as a mentorship program at Dalton Academy and a book club at Roan School. He said Dalton’s office has two full-time social workers and an office manager who is a social worker who focuses on stabilizing the family.

“LAA is funded by grants and donations,” he said. “Our Atlanta office has two full-time employees whose job is to write grant proposals to raise money to help our local communities.”

He said being in the community center would make it easier for those served by the association to get there and raise the profile of the group in Dalton.

City administrator Andrew Parker told council members there was space in the community center in the area formerly occupied by the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. WIC is a federal program that provides nutrition and counseling to mothers and pregnant women. WIC returned to the Whitfield County Health Department.

Parker said some Parks and Recreation Department employees will move to the former WIC space during the renovation of the John Davis Recreation Center, which is scheduled to begin in March 2023. But he said there was place for these employees and for the Latin American Association. if council members decide to go ahead with a lease.

Board member Dennis Mock said he was “very familiar with the work” carried out by the association. He and other council members said residents of the city can benefit from the services provided by the association.

They also noted that the city has signed other leases with nonprofit organizations that provide needed services, such as the DEO Clinic, which provides health care to people without insurance in rented space in the community center. The former WIC offices are adjacent to the DEO Clinic site.

The council members asked Parker to draft a lease agreement and present it to them for a vote at a future council meeting.

Jill E. Washington