A nonprofit agency that has served the Spanish-speaking residents of Jackson County since 2004 faces financial issues it may not be able to overcome.
A lack of funding recently forced officials with Southern Indiana Hispanic Services to make the decision to cut back its office hours from three days a week to just a few hours one day.
In the past, the office at 113 N. Chestnut St., Seymour, has been open from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday each week, director Magda Posadas said. She is the only paid employee of the agency, and she receives volunteer assistance from Joyce Stuckwisch.
“Joyce is going to keep the office open for a few hours on Tuesdays from 1 to 4 p.m.,” Posadas said. “She is an awesome volunteer and has been helping us for a long time. She is a very caring person and has a very big heart for our clients. I don’t know what we would have done without her help.”
There also are a couple of college students and a high school student that help out in the office at times, Posadas said.
One of those college students is 27-year-old Liliana Varela of Seymour.
“This year, I decided to do some volunteer work in order to get my scholarship,” she said.
Her mother suggested she consider Southern Indiana Hispanic Services.
“She knew Magda and Joyce and said they probably need help because it seems like they are busy all the time,” Varela said.
She said she knew about the services the agency offers, and she knows of family and others in the community who have used those services, which include interpretation, translations and referrals to other nonprofit organizations.
Varela, who is studying software development, said she spends about six hours a week helping with interpreting and entering information.
“I actually feel like I am helping out my community in some way and giving back,” she said.
Posadas said her goal at this time is to try to keep providing services for clients because they are the agency’s sole source of funding.
“We don’t have any federal or state funding, and we are not part of United Way,” she said. “What we need right now is the funds to keep our operations and doors open for three days a week. That would be good for us to be able to keep serving our clients.”
About 80 families visit the agency a month asking for help with translating birth certificates, identification cards and other written documents or correspondence. The agency also helps write résumés and letters of permission for children to travel and assistance with applications for services offered within the community.
The language barrier is an issue for most of the agency’s clients. Many come from Guatemala, Mexico and other areas where Chuj, a Mayan language, is spoken, Posadas said.
“They cannot communicate or even seek services on their own,” she said.
Once clients begin to learn English and not struggle, they move on and don’t need as much help.
Posadas said it will be very sad if the agency has to close its doors in the future because of a lack of funding.
“I just want to touch the hearts of people,” she said.
Southern Indiana Hispanic Services traces its origins to La Paz de Cristo, established in 2004 to help newcomers from Mexico and Central American countries overcome some of the language and cultural barriers by informing, orienting and educating immigrants and new residents.
Posadas said a board oversees the operations, and the members are passionate about the agency’s mission.
The Rust family, which owns Rose Acre Farms, also continues to support the agency financially, but one corporate sponsor is not enough.
Posadas said the agency has had several fundraisers, but there has not been much response from the community.
The agency also sponsors events such as a Mother’s Day celebration in the spring and Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16 to promote awareness of the Hispanic community.
It also is hosting an upcoming meeting with Seymour Police Chief Abbott at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Community Agency Building, 113 N. Chestnut St. The purpose of that meeting is to help keep the community informed about police work.
None of those events are designed to raise money.
Posadas said the agency also plans to establish an online account called “Help Us to Keep our Hearts Open” in the future so people can donate to the cause.
“That’s a way for us to tell people to help us keep our doors open,” Posadas said.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Agency: Southern Indiana Hispanic Services
Director: Magda Posadas
Board members: President Ryan Hackman, vice president David Rust, secretary Kim Barnett and treasurer Marcia Monroe
Address: 113 N. Chestnut St., Seymour