Grand Opening of Casa de la Unidad Brings ‘Esperanza’ to Springfield
On Tuesday, Aug. 31, a community center—unlike any other in Springfield—opened at 530 C Street. At 12:30 p.m., the center unveiled it’s welcoming sign to a crowd of 20 people.
The parsonage building, property of the Ebbert Memorial Methodist Church, was built in 1916. Recently, the church agreed to provide operating space for two programs with Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC): Springfield Alliance for Equity and Respect (SAfER), and Citywide Union de Activistas, a group focused on Latinx youth leadership development. Together these two organizations will give office space to Escudo Latino alongside Carry it Forward, a local program serving the houseless.
SAfER and Citywide wanted to offer a space in Springfield that is both safe and welcoming for marginalized groups. They said that this space is a place for belonging and most importantly, esperanza – hope.
Johanis Tadeo, SAfER’s Community Organizer, began the event. He opened the ceremony by acknowledging the Native Kalapuya land on which the center was built. Then, he welcomed the crowd and spoke about why the center was created.
Citywide worked with community members to come up with the name for the new space. Together they chose Casa de la Unidad, which means “House of Unity.”
Casa de la Unidad will focus on youth engagement and education, especially for those who are experiencing difficulties due to racism or hate. The center will have office space for the two organizations for one-on-one meetings with teens and other community members.
Tadeo said that it was a historic moment for Springfield and thanked all those who made the center possible.
“This is a step in feeling safe, feeling heard. And a place that holds and brews change.” said Tadeo. He hopes that this center will offer families living in Springfield a step towards healing.
Samantha Alcantar-Flores, Citywide’s co-Director, also spoke from her heart, explaining that while growing up she faced many challenges in school. But the problems she faced were never addressed, which forced her to constantly change schools. Alcantar hopes that this center will help make a difference for today’s students.
In addition, it has space for larger meetings which SAfer and Citywide plan to use for community workshops and forums.
Casa de la Unidad is all about community connection, and Alcantar wants it to serve this purpose for both cities. She feels that, as neighbors, Eugene and Springfield should be collaborating towards peace and unity.
Rosalba Rodriquez and Mariela German of Escudo Latino, a nonprofit that works to provide Spanish-language information, food boxes, and other resources in Lane County, thanked the crowd and expressed how excited and happy they are that the center is now open.
Kris McAlister, co-director of Carry It Forward, also gave his gratitude for the center, saying it was an honor to be here. He explained that the center will offer service for the houseless in Springfield. There, they will prepare meals, offer clothing, recovery groups, and provide medical information available in Braille, Spanish, and English.
June Fothergill, Ebbert Memorial’s pastor, spoke next and thanked the congregation for opening their doors to these organizations. She said that this center will aid in the church’s mission of being a “community care hub.” Each group brings “different gifts to the table and they are all important.”
Guest speaker, Mayor Sean VanGordon, said that he was proud of all the hard work put into the community center. He said this center reminds him of the community Springfield wants to be–one that is welcoming and inclusive– and offered congratulations to the organizations on behalf of the city and council.
SAfER member Ginny Osteen coordinated the team who created and installed the sign. Kirsten Vinyeta designed the outlay and chose symbols representing different communities of Springfield. The sign was installed by Anthony Reed.
Osteen said that the camas flower was chosen to honor the land and the people of the Kalapuya Tribe. The monarch butterflies represent the migration of people moving from the North to South, just as the butterflies do.
The Mayan In Lak’ech symbol sits directly in the middle of the sign and it means “I Am You or You are Me.” Escudo Latino members recited the poem allowed with the crowd at the end of the ceremony.
Casa de la Unidad is funded through community support. The group has raised $6,500 of their $9,000 goal for this year and they are still accepting donations. Individuals can make donations designated to support the center’s operating costs through CALC’s website.