In one of its final acts, the former Bartow Hispanic Center will lend a helping hand financially to the Hands of Christ After School Program at Iglesia Metodista Unida Douglas Street. Set for Monday, a $3,500.21 check will be presented to the Cartersville program, which serves about 100 students annually at the United Methodist church.
“The [Bartow Hispanic Center’s] remaining funds have finally been solidified after making final stipend payments to our last group of teachers for English classes,” said Annabel Rodriguez-Romero, who cofounded the Bartow Hispanic Center with her husband, Joel Romero. “The total amount is $3,500.21. Hands of Christ Douglas Street UMC After School Program was selected as an unanimous decision by Bartow Hispanic Center’s board members when we decided to cease services. We selected this program and Mrs. Angela Rivers due to the services they provide to Hispanic families and students in the community. We are thankful for the support Mrs. Rivers has provided to us as a center, when in existence. We felt that the remaining funds would be wisely used since the program supports the same families we served.
“Being that our goal was to empower Hispanic families and youth in the community, it means a lot that the funds will be donated to Hands of Christ Douglas UMC After School Program. We believe that the families and youth will benefit from the funds, and we trust that the funds will be used to serve the same purpose as Bartow Hispanic Center’s goals.”
Opening the Bartow Hispanic Center in January 2016, the Romeros announced in August 2017 the organization would be concluding its services.
According to an emailed letter from the couple to BHC’s supporters, “It is with heavy hearts that we write to let you know that the board of the Bartow Hispanic Center (BHC) has decided to close the center. The reasons for this decision center on the difficulty of recruiting and maintaining a functional volunteer board, as well as our recent decision to relocate out of state.
“As cofounders of the BHC, this was a decision that was not taken lightly, but rather with much prayer and reflection. Given these realities, it is difficult to continue as an organization capable of meeting our intended goals for the BHC to fully serve and respond to the needs of the Hispanic community in Bartow County.”
Based out of Daniel Ahart Tax Service in Cartersville, the BHC offered bilingual counseling, English classes and informational and educational workshops for the Hispanic community.
“These funds will be used for a variety of enrichment activities, which would otherwise not be possible,” said Rivers, pastor of Iglesia Metodista Unida Douglas Street. “Funds will be used for hands on STEAM projects, including a dissection lab and building catapults, local trips to points of interest and restaurants to provide needed real world experiences, and most exciting is some funds will be added to a grant that we have already been awarded from the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia.
“The purpose of the grant is to purchase a 3D printer, which our students will use to print prosthetic hands for children through the Hand Challenge Program. Once we have the printer, our goal is two hands the first year, with more in subsequent years.”
Operating for about 20 years, the Hands of Christ After School Program at Iglesia Metodista Unida Douglas Street currently serves students in grades six to 12.
“The Hands of Christ After School Program began in 1998 in response to the need for academic support for ESOL students and others,” Rivers said. “At that time, the majority of our students were born outside the U.S. This demographic has changed totally in that over 95 percent of our students currently enrolled are U.S. citizens.
“The majority are still low income students who nevertheless benefit from academic support, cultural enrichment and service learning opportunities. Over half of our high school students are in honors or AP classes. Our enrollment remains majority Hispanic, but the program is open to all students.”