For 26 years, Latino Network has provided a wide range of culturally specific services to the Latino community in the Portland-Metro area.
Now, the organization is aiming to expand those services. It’s raising $18 million to build La Plaza Esperanza — a new community center in Gresham’s Rockwood neighborhood.
Tony DeFalco, executive director of Latino Network, said this will help fill a gap in services in east Multnomah County.
“This has been a dream for the Latinx community for decades,” DeFalco said. “Our communities have been without a significant community center of our own on the east side for many, many years.”
The organization offers 59 services ranging from housing assistance to early education programs, but the current center of operations lacks the capacity to offer all the services Latino Network strives to provide.
“We at Latino Network have been providing early childhood education for over two decades and we’ve been doing that in schools and basements of churches, you name it,” DeFalco said. “We’ve brought that programming to wherever the community has wanted it, and we’re currently offered at 20 different sites around the region.”
La Plaza Esperanza would provide Latino Network’s first in-house preschool, offering free, culturally-specific early childhood education.
The new 18,000-square-foot community center would replace the old building and provide a variety of services to the growing Rockwood neighborhood, including a community gathering space, housing and rental assistance and youth programs.
“Our goal, of course, is to create a modern, beautiful, sustainable building that will have much more capacity in terms of space,” DeFalco said.
Funding comes from private donations as well as the public sector. DeFalco says they received money from Oregon Lottery-backed bonds, the American Rescue Plan Act and Multnomah County’s general fund.
Latino Network also hopes to receive $2.7 million from New Markets Tax Credits, a federal initiative that funds businesses in low-income communities.
If those funds come through, the organization would still need to raise another $3.6 million to reach its $18 million goal.
La Plaza Esperanza joins three other organizations located at the Rockwood Community Campus, including the CareOregon Boys & Girls Club, New Avenues for Youth and Open School East.
DeFalco said these organizations along with Latino Network play an important role in east Multnomah County.
“The four of us together are a very powerful youth and family serving nexus,” he said. “Really anyone from the community can come in and find the kind of culturally-specific, age-specific, demographic-specific programming that they may need to support themselves and their families.”
The organization plans to begin construction in 2023 and open in the summer of 2024.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Multnomah County funds allocated to the Latino Network come from the county’s general fund, that New Market Tax Credits the group hopes to receive have not yet been allocated, and to include the full name of the Care Oregon Boys & Girls Club. OPB regrets the errors.