Church Community Services Is Filling the Gaps

As Church Community Services has been working to meet community needs, the organization saw a gap in how it assisted Latinos.

After collaborating with others in the community, CCS created a plan to focus on some of their services towards the Latino community. The Community Foundation of Elkhart County awarded a $100,000 grant to help the agency fill these gaps.

The first step in the process was bringing someone in who understood the Latino community and was able to speak the language. Yolo Lopez-Demarco was hired as the Community Impact director for the LatinX program. “I was super excited when I first heard about this initiative, it is very needed in Elkhart County. It meant a lot to intentionally reachout to the Latino community,” said Lopez-Demarco.

Being accessible to the Latino community was more than just translating pamphlets and assuring that CCS, which includes the food pantry, financial services and other resources, is welcoming to Latinos. Lopez-Demarco’s goal was to build the trust of the Latino community.

Tom McArthur, executive director at Church Community Services, said, “Almost 30% of Elkhart’s population is Latino and so we were embarrassed that we had never intentionally tried to serve them in the past. As a result of Yolo’s efforts, we have seen a dramatic rise in Latino visits to our food pantry and financial services areas.”

One of the challenges Lopez-Demarco experienced was letting the Latino community know that Church Community Services is a nonprofit not associated with the government. That is a key part of building trust.

To be able to intentionally serve the Latino community, CCS had to change some of their services. The food pantry offered at CCS now has Spanish-speaking volunteers and traditional foods that are part of daily lives of Latinos.

Church Community Services is working on community outreach to help schools and churches understand the services it provides. The CCS staff members are continuing to work on different ways they can serve the Latino community and meet these gaps in the community.

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