You might say that the population makeup in Richmond is no longer a black and white issue. As part of the city’s increasing diversity, its Hispanic population continues to grow. According to 2020 U.S. Census data, the number of Hispanics living in Richmond grew from 12,800 to 22,400 over the past decade – an 85% increase since 2010.
This rising population of Hispanics has come with increased demands for culturally sensitive services and programs designed specifically for Richmond’s Latino population, and one local organization that has been on the front lines of providing that support is the Sacred Heart Center.
The Sacred Heart Center offers Latinos tools to help them “thrive and flourish.” The center provides educational programs for adults – GED preparation classes, ESL classes and computer classes. Youth and children can take advantage of Kids of the Corazon (Kids of the Heart), Pasitos Exitosos (Successful Steps) or college and career-bound planning.
But the Sacred Heart Center does more than get Latino families involved through its various events and classes, it also works hard to help Hispanic residents overcome injustices and address challenges often faced by minority populations.
At the helm of the organization is Executive Director Tanya Gonzalez, a Latina with a growing reputation as someone who isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves up or, for that matter, put on her gloves. In an interview with WRIC, discussing her recent designation as the first Latina to be named a Richmond History Maker, she said she’s always “en la lucha” helping to grant equity and access for our region’s Latino population.
As with so many nonprofits, COVID-19 created some new challenges for the organization, but Tanya and the Sacred Heart Center were not to be deterred. Like many schools across the country, Sacred Heart adapted by going remote, providing online classes and keeping connected to its community. With things starting to return back to normal, the organization now provides limited in-person, hybrid and online classes.
For those looking to become more involved in the community, Sacred Heart relies a great deal on its community volunteers. You’ll find them assisting the organization with everything from English lessons to Spanish and GED tutoring to reading aloud to youth. Artistically inclined volunteers have even been painting murals on the center’s walls.
For over 30 years, the Sacred Heart Center has been there for Richmonders, and Gonzalez and the staff at the Sacred Heart Center work each and every day to create an inviting place for Latinos in our area for support and a sense of community.
“[We’re] welcoming those in a way that makes my community feel a little bit more a part of Richmond, whereas maybe that didn’t exist before,” Gonzalez told WRIC.