(Courtesy of Victoria Montero)

Community Voices: Unidos durante COVID-19

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Established in 1968, the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley works to improve the quality of lives of individuals and families (Hispanic and non-Hispanic) by empowering them to become more self-sufficient, while promoting an intercultural understanding in the Lehigh Valley. HCLV supports individuals across the life spectrum with comprehensive social services and community programming. Victoria Montero, MPH serves as the executive director of HCLV.

Since March 2020, there is one word that continues to resonate at the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley, a local social service agency located in the heart of SouthSide, Bethlehem: Unidos.

Unidos is the Spanish word for united—or, together—a word I’ve come back to many times throughout the pandemic. It’s a word that has also fueled our work internally and with local partners in the Lehigh Valley.

Despite the distance across screens or six-feet between our staff and the clients we serve, the last 13 months have been a testimony that we are not alone, but united. Now more than ever, I can attest that due to this unity, our office remains open and our programs reach more lives.

From the height of the pandemic as the need for social services grew, so did our community’s support:

Unidos, we helped distribute over 1,400 first-dose COVID-19 vaccines this spring and partnered to host a Spanish language virtual event, “Keeping Our Community Safe,” to address common vaccine questions.

Unidos, we ensured Basilio Huertas Senior Center clients remained fed during the pandemic with twice-monthly food package deliveries and virtual case management support, including by securing access to internet connectivity and technology.

Unidos, we engaged in necessary and difficult dialogue across five Community Conversations as a part of HCLV’s Racial Justice for Stronger Communities virtual education series, made possible thanks to generous sponsors.

Unidos, individuals and families can count on HCLV to provide essential support through programs such as our Food Pantry, which met a 118 percent increase in clients served during the pandemic—distributing nearly 40,000 pounds of food thanks to dedicated staff and local partners.

Unidos, we will come out stronger on the other side of the pandemic—and there will be a day.

I write to share a collective thank you for this unity, for the solidarity you’ve shown.

Whether you are a healthcare hero or someone sourcing groceries for an immunocompromised friend or neighbor; helping someone register to vote or taking someone to the polls to exercise their rights; getting in line for a vaccine when your turn comes around, or simply continuing to wear a mask and social distance—thank you.

Our collective actions make all the difference. All of these actions amount to community, and community is what unites us.

Whether you’ve benefited from our services at HCLV directly or are a champion of our causes, we know we are stronger when we work together, unidos. That’s why we welcome your ideas for partnership opportunities to reach more individuals, families, and expand current initiatives.

We know there is more work to be done, and throughout the challenges ahead, let’s vow to remain unidos so that we can create better life opportunities for our community.

Community is what makes our impact possible, and more is possible cuando estamos unidos.

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