Pilar Rocha-Goldberg

El Centro Hispano (NC)

El Centro Hispano is a vital lifeline for the growing Hispanic/Latino population in the Triangle Area of North Carolina. With program focus areas in education, economic development, health and well-being, and community engagement and advocacy, the organization provides much-needed support to the region’s residents, while also engaged in leadership development and building coalitions of power.

In the weeks before N.C. Governor Roy Cooper issued COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in the spring of 2020, El Centro Hispano had already recognized the implications of the impending pandemic for the historically marginalized population it serves. “We’re very proud that El Centro under the direction of [President and CEO] Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, who has led the organization for over a decade, really stepped up to plate for what our community needed,” says Eliazar Posada, acting president and CEO while Rocha-Goldberg is on sabbatical. “Through her vision of how we must respond as El Centro Hispano, we created the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund that provided direct assistance with things like housing, food and clothing, and we hired community health workers and lobbied for increased access to free testing and vaccinations.”

At the same time, the pandemic redoubled the organization’s commitment to the host of ongoing issues affecting undocumented and immigrant communities. El Centro Hispano interacts with lawmakers, elected officials, medical service providers, government agencies and community leaders to advocate for the tens of thousands of people who provide essential and frontline services. “How does not having health insurance impact a worker who can’t afford to be sick?” says Posada. “Without adequate technology in the home, how can a child keep up with online learning? How do we drive voter registration so that people can be part of decisions that affect their lives? Decision makers are really starting to understand the urgency of issues that we had been working on well before COVID.”