On November 21, 2016, Nueva Esperanza held its 34th Annual Meeting! Board members celebrated its organizational, fiscal, and operational stabilization; shared its new draft Mission and Vision; and voted in three new Board Representatives to replace three outgoing Board members.
The Board Secretary Juan Sanchez opened the event with a welcoming to all guests. Guests in the audience of about 30 people included the South Holyoke Residents Association, Ward 2 City Councilor Nelson Roman, Nueva Esperanza staff, and representatives from Virgilio Property Management, the Office of State Representative Aaron Vega, Enlace de Familias, and other community residents and allies. Sanchez shared a brief history of Nueva Esperanza, Inc. and how the organization had personally impacted his life since very young. Many years later, he is humble to be able to give back and serve on the Board.
Following Juan’s welcoming was Board President Joshua A. Garcia who opened the meeting and gave what is recognized to be his final ‘President’s Report’. Garcia is stepping down from the Board after serving for five years and four of those years as Board President. Garcia started by explaining how important it is, especially for the Puerto Rican community of Holyoke, for an organization like Nueva Esperanza, Inc. to exist.
For decades, millions of dollars have been spent in Holyoke to improve the conditions of low-income neighborhoods largely made-up of Hispanics, but yet Holyoke’s 30% of population still remains under the poverty-line, neighborhoods continue to be segregated by income, only 9% of the businesses owned in the City are Hispanic owned, and the City continues to struggle with maintaining local control of its public school district whose student body population is 80% Hispanic. Joshua strongly believes this is largely due to the design of the city that is contributing toward what he described as ‘systemic oppression’ and ‘institutional racism’ experienced by the large Hispanic population who make-up half of the overall total population of the City. Unfortunately for many years, public positions, administrations, and decision makers of non-profit organizations do not reflect this. “There is a lack of equitable representation in public positions in the City and to achieve real change, we need to identify ways to break down barriers that are not allowing Hispanic neighborhoods to gain access to the decisions that are made about their neighborhood/s and their lives. Once people can experience a sense of control and power to affect decisions about their lives and neighborhoods, they can begin to feel a sense of hope and, in turn, take an active role in civic life.” Garcia said. He further explained that although we have came along way in the City, there is still more work to do and Nueva Esperanza can be a major player in making that degree of positive change as a community development organization and advocate for the Puerto Rican community.
Joshua then proceeded to present on Nueva Esperanza’s operational achievement through the last five years. This includes:
- financial sustainability and organizational stability
- greatly minimized liability and old debt
- self-sustained and maintained existing assets
- grew capital reserves and maintained a strong operational cash flow at its existing residential developments
- achieved greater accountability and board structure
- maintained resident control on a residential/commercial property
- built new and trustworthy relationships with much larger key organizations, residents, and businesses
- advocated for resident and business interest on issues impacting their community and interest
- organized a Board retreat and achieved a strong draft Vision and Mission
Despite the organizational challenges that has caused the ‘downfall’ of Nueva Esperanza, Inc. in the past, the Board was determined to look forward and not let anything distract them from losing site of regaining stability, growth, and uphold the important values of why the organization exists. There was a tremendous amount of expressed gratitude to other key organizations who helped and advised the Board of Nueva Esperanza, Inc. through the process of achieving stability. Garcia was proud to say to those present at Annual Meeting, “These achievements happened because we were patient and we did it together as team.” His advice for the current and incoming Board was to take this foundation and continue to build organizational capacity. “Celebrate your victories no matter how small, maintain a functional operation and practice good governance, show that you are fiscally responsible – that’s how you will continue to build organizational capacity as well as credibility to do the very things Nueva Esperanza, Inc. is meant to do.”
The Board Treasurer, Rosa Pantoja, presented the fiscal landscape of Nueva Esperanza, Inc. Pantoja was proud to share that for the first time in years, Nueva Esperanza has achieved a projected surplus in its budget. The primary income sources at the present moment come from the commercial and residential rental properties that have been doing well for the organization. However, she greatly expressed the need for the Board to diversify its funding streams as we continue to build capacity. “Although we are self-sustained, we can’t solely depend on these incomes. Soon, we should leverage other resources so we can keep up with our administrative responsibilities separate from other programming opportunities”. Pantjoa also presented on the Board’s recent achievement of expanding its ownership interest/investment in Energia (a local energy company) from 10% to now 15%. Pantoja also explained how she and the Board have been actively engaged on plans to renovate El Mercado to potentially bring in an increase of revenue and appropriately maintain the space for community engagement. The Valley Opportunity Council is currently their fiscal agent and is providing book keeping services for the organization.
Board Member Dan Battat, presented the draft Mission and Vision that the Board worked on at a recent Board retreat. These are reflected as follows:
- MISSION: Nueva Esperanza, Inc. exists to be a catalyst and partner for a vibrant, sustainable, and powerful Puerto Community in Holyoke
- VISION: Nueva Esperanza’s vision is to be a hub for community, creation, and culture for the Puerto Rican community of Holyoke:
- Creation: By creating new opportunities through community education, workforce, Leadership, and youth development, we continue moving both the organization and the community forward.
- Community: Maintaining and expanding Nueva Esperanza’s property assets – will empower the community to take ownership of their neighborhoods and get more involved within their communities.
- Culture: to strive to become a Puerto Rican Cultural Center that keeps our traditions and history alive within our communities and beyond.
Nominations were made and we welcome our newest members to the Board – Maria Salgado-Cartegena, Carlos Pena, and Irene Feliciano which brings the Board membership to 8 members. They come in to replace Joshua A. Garcia, Israel Rivera, and Alan Gilburg who has served on the Board for 10 years.
The meeting was adjourned shortly after a warm, passionate, and inspiring speech from the organizations newest Board member Maria Salgado-Cartegena.