What was once a fire station will now be the new home to La Paz Chattanooga.
La Paz Chattanooga holds the title of Latino Resource Center, acting as a connector guide for the Latinx community. Right now, the center is located on Bailey Avenue in Highland Park. Their new center will be located on South Willow Street, just a few minutes down the road.
In the new space, La Paz will have a food pantry available to the community, with their partnership with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, which began last year. Right now, food boxes will be distributed once a month, for at least the next three months. La Paz also has a relationship with the Hispanic pastor at Red Bank Baptist so they receive food boxes from them more sporadically.
A commercial kitchen will be used for events in the new center and will be available for local Latinx businesses to come and sell food, along with local community members to use at their disposal and availability. Inside the building will also be panel murals, made by a local Latina artist. La Paz says they received a grant from Artsbuild, where they will expand on the artwork and make it a permanent piece somewhere inside the building.
Outside of La Paz, there will be a fun space where local Latinx restaurants with food trucks can set up, and sell food for those in the community to enjoy.
Communications Manager Lily Sanchez says the new building is a little over two times the size of their current space. This allows La Paz to have a central hub where the Latinx Community can come, be comfortable, and make the space their own. Sanchez says they wanted a larger space for the community so they could take the programs they offer into their own hands. She says the new building is two times the size of its current space.
The center chose this location because they wanted to stay in the Highland Park area, according to Sanchez this is where they are known to be a part of the community. The organization says they wanted to stay close to the area, where Latinx residents could access them. Sanchez says they are excited to remain in the neighborhood they have called home, for so long.
Other new features, to the new La Paz space, include a larger event space and more privacy for their social impact office. Sanchez says this will allow them to provide care and services to clients in a more dignified and private way.
Their Social Impact Department handles most of their case management, advocacy, and resource connection. La Paz says they see six-thousand or more clients a year. However, in 2020, because of the pandemic, the center says they saw over that number. The department helps clients find financial resources, counseling services, or connects them with other agencies in town that can offer further help.
A lot of services community members seek at La Paz, depend on the need. The center says they see a lot of referrals, while most are looking for reliable and trusted resources to establish themselves in their new home, in Chattanooga. Lily Sanchez says they connect clients to anything from doctors, to dentists, to immigration lawyers.
La Paz says for the DACA recipients in the community, they most often connect their clients with immigration attorneys, that will help them through the process. Sanchez says the center acts as a connector and advocate for anyone regardless of their immigration status. She says the center listens to their client's cases and depending on what type of situations they are in, they will access and determine what kind of support they need outside of the center's scope of work.
Another program La Paz offers is Professional Development Classes. This helps the Latinx community "bulk up" their work experience and other skills that can help them get a job. Other classes offered, before the pandemic, include a mental health support group, financial education, and learning how to use your digital literacy to build your business. Before the pandemic, La Paz would also hold town hall meetings, three times a year, for for civic engagement. The center believes it is important that the Latinx community members know their rights and what civil liberties they have. Sanchez says before the pandemic, they would have meetings with the local police chief or local government leaders. Sanchez says they hope to hold a town hall once they move into the new building, with social distancing.
Sanchez says La Paz Chattanooga is "very excited and honored that the Latina community has trusted us for so many years and we’re thrilled to be able to expand our services and our resources to them to continue growing and strengthening themselves in the community and becoming a community that thrives even more in Chattanooga."
La Paz hopes to move into the new building in June, and hold a grand opening during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Photos provided by La Paz Chattanooga.
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