When a Hillsboro couple considered opening a restaurant reflecting the food and culture of their native Mexico City, they turned to Adelante Mujeres for help.
The Forest Grove nonprofit, whose name means “Women Rise Up,” was started 18 years ago by Latina mothers wanting to serve what they called a marginalized community. This year, it’s a beneficiary of The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Season of Sharing holiday fundraising campaign.
>>To donate: Season of Sharing GoFundMe page
The organization has a staff of 75, 800 volunteers and a $4.5 million budget. About 53 percent of the budget comes from government grants and contracts. About 39 percent is from private foundations and business partners and a critical 8 percent of unrestricted income comes from individual donors.
The organization has 10 programs focusing on education, leadership and enterprise serving families throughout the metropolitan area. One program, called Chicas Youth Development, offers 600 girls, ages 8 to 18, weekly afterschool programs to develop leadership, cultural identity and academic success. Another program, Empresas Small Business Development, focuses on Latino immigrant entrepreneurs.
“The fact is we’re not represented in leadership roles in our communities,” said Evelyn Cantoral, the nonprofit’s director of development. “Our goal is to build Latino leadership through education, empowerment and entrepreneurship.”
“All our courses are in Spanish,” said Cantoral. “We offer one-on-one coaching and access to financing. We have a commercial kitchen and we run farmers markets.”
For years Alma Hernández and Cristhian Lara Morales thought about starting a restaurant. Counselors at Adelante Mujeres said that instead of a full-service restaurant, always a risky venture, the couple should start with a taco stand. The plan made sense, and they opened it in May at a Newberg farmers market. Since then the couple has taken their stand on weekends to five area farmers markets.
They can continue working at their “real jobs,” and the stand is not only financially feasible but also allows the couple to build relationships with vendors, suppliers and farmers they will need when they eventually open a restaurant. The next step for the couple will be to consider opening a taco food cart.
Immigrants, said Cantoral, have the skills and tenacity to open businesses but run into language barriers and a sometimes-confusing bureaucracy.
“Throughout the centuries, immigrant entrepreneurs have come to this country to get their feet on the ground,” she said. “Eventually they go on to do big things. They just need help.”
Alma Hernández said she and her husband are the parents of a daughter, Luna, 13, and son, Kaleb, 8. Hernández is a school social worker. Lara Morales is a chef at a restaurant on the Nike campus.
“At Adelante Mujeres we found our language and people we can trust,” said Hernández. “They helped us with applications, the steps needed by the city and the state, how to apply for food safety permits and for a business license. They helped get us through all the hoops and gave us the big picture of what it means to open the business.”
The couple calls their stand La Lotería Taco Shop, named after a traditional Mexican card game. Hernández is not sure when she and her husband will open their restaurant. They are taking it slow, listening to advice from Adelante Mujeres.
“But we will do it,” she said. “It is our dream. A dream is about more than one generation. My husband and I think of the shoulders we are standing on. Our parents who wanted a better life for us. We want our children to one day stand on our dream.”
What your donation can do
$50: Helps cover the cost for one girl in Adelante Mujeres’ Chicas Youth Development Program to attend field trips to Oregon colleges.
$100: Helps cover the cost for one girl to attend Adelante Mujeres’ summer Leadership Camp.
$250: Helps one woman attend a small business development course.
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