Ibero receives $50,000 in state funding for move

Ibero-American Action League’s Centro de Oro has received $50,000 in funding from the state to assist individuals over the age of 60.

As the only senior center catered specifically for Latinos over the age of 60, Centro de Oro — meaning Gold Center — serves as an educational center and a “home away from home” for seniors facing isolation. The center’s attendees more than doubled after Hurricane Maria and it has faced large funding shortages since.

“Centro de Oro sets the standard for senior care and provides an essential service to our local Latinx population in Rochester,” said state Sen. Jeremy Cooney, D-Rochester, who played a role in obtaining the funding. “I am proud to have supported a state budget that prioritizes our most vulnerable citizens, including our seniors. This funding will play a critical role in Ibero’s outreach into underserved communities.”

Although Centro de Oro is facing funding challenges, Ibero deems it a service critical to the mission of the organization and has worked diligently to secure additional support. Ibero has partnered with the city of Rochester to relocate the center to the Trenton and Pamela Jackson R-Center.

“On behalf of Ibero and the seniors, I would like to thank Senator Cooney for his generous show of support for our senior center and the well-being of our elders,” said Angelica Perez-Delgado, president and CEO of Ibero. “These funds will help Ibero continue serving Latino seniors by maintaining a bilingual, culturally-sensitive environment unique to this population.”

Established in 1968, Ibero is a dual-language human services agency that builds stronger families and greater self-sufficiency among individuals and families of all ethnic backgrounds.

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Rochester to compete in civics award

Rochester has been nominated for the National Civic League’s All-America City Award. The city is one of 20 nominees.

The award shines a light on the work taking place in communities nationwide. Nominated communities have demonstrated a commitment to leveraging civic engagement, collaboration, inclusivity and innovation to successfully address local issues.

This year’s theme is enhancing health and wellbeing through civic engagement. The Rochester delegation is led by the city of Rochester, which submitted three projects to win the nomination:
• The High Blood Pressure Collaborative, led by Common Ground Health
• Project HOPE and El Camino Neighborhood Revitalization, led by the Ibero-American Action League and supported by Greater Rochester Health Foundation
• The Community Task Force on School Climate, led by Rochester Area Community Foundation with Teen Empowerment, the Alliance for Quality Education, Metro Justice/Citizen Action of New York and others.

Since 1949, the National Civic League has recognized the best in American civic innovation with the All-America City Award. The annual award celebrates the work of 10 communities that have used inclusive civic engagement to address critical issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses and nonprofit and government leaders.

“The city of Rochester is proud to be a caring community that works together with our partner organizations to improve the quality of life for all of our residents,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement. “We are extremely pleased that the National Civic League has recognized our city as a finalist for the 2020 All-America City Award. We hope our presentation will reflect our values as a community and, in turn, solidify Rochester as one of the recipients of this year’s award.”

Typically an in-person event, this year nominated communities will present their stories in the form of a virtual presentation or performance during the National Civic League’s annual conference held in August. The Rochester delegation is scheduled to present on Aug. 17.

“As a community, we can all be proud of the path that our region has taken to improving health,” said Common Ground Health CEO Wade Norwood. “Advancing in this national competition is a recognition of how we’ve knocked down the walls that separated the doctor’s office from the community. I look forward to sharing how business, government, schools, clinicians and families have and continue to come together to move towards health equity.”

In applying and throughout the process, communities reflect on their strengths, weaknesses, challenges and the progress they have made. During the conference, teams of residents, nonprofit organizations, businesses and young leaders from communities nationwide will come together virtually to collaborate and share insights.

“Rochester has a rich history of justice and social change,” said Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education. “Parents, students and community members have come together to create community schools, rewrite the code of conduct and now have police-free schools. Rochester is shining a light on the possibilities of community collaboration.”

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Ibero-American Action League collecting donations for Puerto Rico evacuees

The Ibero-American Action League Inc. has launched an online donation campaign to help those affected by recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico.

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey

The Rochester not-for-profit already has helped two dozen households who have relocated to Rochester since a magnitude 4.7 earthquake hit southwest Puerto Rico on Dec. 28. Many residents in the affected area remain without electricity, medical aid and other necessities.

Ibero is reconvening the Multi-Agency Resource Center that served thousands of displaced Puerto Ricans escaping Hurricane Maria in 2017. During that crisis, roughly 1,000 people walked through the doors of a five-hour welcome reception the agency held at its Clifford Avenue resource center.

More than 25 Rochester agencies collaborated to help evacuees of the Category 4 hurricane. Ibero is encouraging anyone with friends or family arriving from the devastated U.S. territory to visit the organization’s Stability, Education and Employment Services department. Donations to the campaign can be made at ibero.org/donate.

Ibero was founded in 1968 as a dual-language human services organization that works toward the advancement of the Latino community in Greater Rochester.

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Complete Streets Makeover winner announced

A team of engineers and organizational leaders have chosen a North Clinton Avenue neighborhood for a Complete Streets makeover.

The block of North Clinton Avenue between Hoeltzer and Sullivan Streets will be the Complete Streets Makeover focus area.
The block of North Clinton Avenue between Hoeltzer and Sullivan Streets will be the Complete Streets Makeover focus area.

Working with Reconnect Rochester—a not-for-profit organization that works to improve transportation choices in the region—individuals from the city of Rochester, the state and Monroe County departments of transportation, Stantec Inc. and others have chosen the El Camino neighborhood of North Clinton Avenue between Hoeltzer and Sullivan Streets as the project’s focus area.

Officials said the location presented the right mix of community support, evidence of safety concerns and potential for a street redesign that would create “real, transformative change for the community.”

A complete street is one that is designed and operated to allow everyone, regardless of age, ability or mode of transportation, safer access on that street, Reconnect Rochester officials explained. A complete street is a shared street, one that is shared by pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists.

It reflects and serves the surrounding community and neighborhoods.

Rochester and a number of surrounding towns have Complete Streets policies. A Complete Streets approach integrates people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of transportation networks, according to the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Last year’s Complete Streets winner was Parsells Avenue in the city’s Beechwood neighborhood, an area known for speeding traffic. Volunteers spent the day painting an intersection with bright colors and beautifying the area.

Temporary curb extenders were installed and on one entrance to the intersection a temporary speed table is being used. Roughly the width of a crosswalk, a speed table inclines slightly to slow drivers and then declines slightly.

This year, officials said, the community response was “tremendous.” Nearly 160 nominations for 31 locations in Monroe County were pored over by a steering committee of 14. The South Clinton Avenue area between South Goodman and Henrietta Streets was named a finalist in the contest, as was Monroe Avenue and Sutherland Street in the village of Pittsford.

The design team at Stantec will provide each of the finalists with a conceptual drawing of street design improvements. The neighborhoods can use the illustrations as a launch pad for community discussion and a tool to help advocate for changes that would make the streets safer for everyone.

the project will be timed to dovetail with plans already underway for that corridor. Officials will work with Ibero-American Development Corp. and other community partners in the El Camino neighborhood to be part of the development of the International Plaza, which recently received funding from the city of Rochester that will drive the project forward. (Photo provided)
The Complete Streets Clinton Avenue makeover project will be timed to dovetail with plans already underway for that corridor. (Photo provided)

As for the North Clinton Avenue Complete Streets Makeover, the project will be timed to dovetail with plans already underway for that corridor. Officials will work with Ibero-American Development Corp. and other community partners in the El Camino neighborhood to be part of the development of the International Plaza, which recently received funding from Rochester that will drive the project forward.

The Complete Streets Makeover will kick off with a community input session in June, facilitated by the Community Design Center, to hear from the residents of the El Camino neighborhood about their experiences and ideas. Based on feedback from this session, the complete streets design team at Stantec will draft conceptual design improvements of an improved streetscape.

The Complete Streets Makeover team will rely on volunteers and equipment from the Healthi Kids traffic-calming library to lay down the temporary design on the street. The design will be brought to life through a temporary on-street installation in September.

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Rochester ranks low for Hispanic business friendliness

A new report from WalletHub has Rochester ranked last for its Hispanic unemployment rate and near the bottom of the list overall in its 2019’s Best Cities for Hispanic Entrepreneurs. Rochester ranked 177th of 182 metro areas nationwide.

“This does not bode well for the Rochester economy. Hispanics create businesses at 15 times the national rate, so other cities around the country are getting a tremendous economic boost from this community,” said Julio Vazquez, senior director of the Ibero American Action League Inc. Investors program. “Rochester is missing out on this economic engine.”

The Ibero Investors program has lent more than $30 million since its launch in 1979.

WalletHub used a data set comprising 24 key metrics ranging from Hispanic entrepreneurship rate to median annual income of Hispanics to share of Hispanics with at least a bachelor’s degree. WalletHub gave Hispanic business-friendliness 60 points toward weighted average and Hispanic purchasing power 40 points.

Laredo, Texas, ranked at the top of the list, while Providence, R.I., ranked at the bottom. Buffalo ranked just ahead of Rochester at 173rd.

“The ability for Hispanic entrepreneurs to start businesses directly impacts the creation of jobs in the community,” Vazquez said. Vazquez also leads Ibero’s Entrepreneurial Assistance Program, which is a partnership between KeyBank’s Boost & Build program, Urban League of Rochester and Ibero American Action League.

The group will host bilingual business startup classes beginning on May 13. The program will cover business plan writing, understanding customers and competition, financing, cash flow, marketing, taxes and other aspects of running a small business.

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City, county partner with Ibero for Latino Summit

Hilda Rosario Escher
Hilda Rosario Escher

The Ibero American Action League Inc. will partner with the County of Monroe and the City of Rochester on the 2018 Upstate Latino Summit.

The event will be held Oct. 17 at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center and will feature influential Latino experts from cities across the state. The event’s premiere sponsor is Vision Automotive Group.

Workshops will include information on education, health and human services, economic development and cultural competence.

“This year’s Upstate Latino Summit also coincides with Ibero’s 50-year anniversary,” said Ibero President and CEO Hilda Rosario Escher. “Our expertise with the Latino community is not only unique, it’s proven by the results our programs deliver year after year, so it’s critical for local organizations and businesses to learn the necessary skills to deliver their own services successfully.”

Ibero requested that the city and county join the organization as co-sponsors of the event, given their past support.

“Both the city and county offer a number of programs and initiatives that target the Latino community,” Rosario Escher said. “That is something Ibero looks for when seeking out partners for our own initiatives.”

Panelists and moderators from Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester will lead workshop discussions, followed by a 50th Anniversary Recognition Luncheon, which will recognize individuals who support Ibero’s mission and success of the Rochester community.

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Pilot program gives kids safe place to play

Kids from Treyer Street and Greeley Street took part in a new program to give children and families a safe place to be active and have fun. (photo provided)
Kids from Treyer Street and Greeley Street took part in a new program to give children and families a safe place to be active and have fun. (Photo provided)

Fewer than 15 percent of kids in Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes are active an hour or more a day, the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So for the second consecutive summer, local organizations teamed to provide a space for children and families to play, contribute to children’s physical and social-emotional development and support community development.

Play Streets is a community-driven program that emphasizes the importance of play. The event was hosted by Healthi Kids Coalition and Ibero-American Development Corp., and was coordinated by FLRT Block Club and Beechwood Neighbors Association.

Residents at Treyer Street and Greeley Street hosted Play Streets throughout August. Both neighborhoods were shut down for a few hours a day and featured active games, dancing, art, summer meals, skateboarding demonstrations, playful sidewalk painting and more.

“One of the biggest obstacles Rochester children face when playing is safety hazards, whether it be from traffic, distracted drivers or other unsafe activities,” said Joe DiFiore of the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition. “Thanks to the Healthi Kids Coalition and its amazing collaboration with city residents, we’re able to overcome these obstacles and give our kids the chance to get outside and play. To see these kids smile and have fun is all the proof we need to know we’re making a difference.”

A 2017 report from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and Rochester Area Community Foundation noted that interviews with neighbors have indicated that a lack of neighborhood and traffic safety are key barriers to play. Healthi Kids’ early studies on playability indicated that 97 percent of play spaces do not have traffic calming features such as speed bumps, traffic lights or signage.

“A lot still needs to happen here in Rochester to give our children access to safe play spaces, but if our work in the community has taught us anything, it’s that residents are ready to work together and make it happen,” said Dina Faticone, director of community health and engagement at Common Ground Health. “Because of the efforts of the FLRT Block Club and Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, we are currently working alongside the City of Rochester to expand this Play Streets pilot across the city to ensure all kids have opportunities to play right in their own neighborhood.”

Funding for the Play Streets pilot was made possible by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and the Wilson Foundation “El Camino Plays” grant.

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Ibero leader Hilda Rosario Escher to retire

hilda-escher-photo-2017-1-237x300Hilda Rosario Escher will leave her post as president and CEO of the Ibero-American Action League Inc. at the end of this year.

“I have been at Ibero for most of my adult life. When I first moved to Rochester from Puerto Rico, I signed up for Ibero’s Bilingual Secretarial Training Program to learn English and stayed on at Ibero as an employee,” Escher said in a statement. “I could never have imagined that I would be so blessed to one day lead the agency that essentially gave me my start in Rochester.”

Escher was born and raised in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. She arrived in the U.S. after earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology and education from the University of Puerto Rico in 1973. Among her seven older siblings, Escher was the only one to go to college.

“I had a lot of determination and always wanted something more,” Escher told the RBJ in a 2008 interview.

After signing up for Ibero’s English program, Escher was offered a job as coordinator of bilingual secretarial training for clients such as Eastman Kodak Co. and Bausch & Lomb Inc. She also served as Ibero’s director of day care services, director of foster care services and director of developmental disabilities.

She became Ibero’s CEO in 2005, when former President and CEO Julio Vazquez was named commissioner of the city’s department of community development by then-Mayor Robert Duffy.

Ibero was founded in 1968 with the mission of providing advocacy services for Monroe County’s growing Hispanic population. The dual-language human services agency has evolved to an agency that serves individuals and families of all ethnic backgrounds.

Escher, 67, plans to spend more time with family when she leaves her post in December.

“As I contemplated my decision to step down, I decided that 2018 was the right year to do it,” she said. “I know that I have done everything I can to lead the agency down a successful path, and I am confident in the ability of current and future staff to continue fulfilling our mission.”

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Grant to target serious crime in Rochester

The Ibero-American Development Corp. has been awarded a nearly $1 million grant to help reduce crime.

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Justice through its Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program. The funding program provides grants for states and local jurisdictions and supports an array of criminal justice functions.

“I’m proud to help advance efforts that will improve safety and provide additional crime prevention resources,” Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Perinton, said in a statement. “This grant will help Ibero-American Development Corp. identify crime hot spots and develop new and creative approaches to keeping our neighbors safe. I will continue to support this program and all efforts that help protect families across Monroe County.”

The goal of the BCJI program is to reduce crime and improve community safety as part of a comprehensive strategy to advance neighborhood revitalization. Through a cross-sector partnership team including neighborhood residents, BCJI grantees target neighborhoods with hot spots of serious crime and employ data-driven, cross-sector strategies to accomplish the goal.

The funds will enable Ibero to develop a strategic and community-oriented plan in a target neighborhood and begin implementation of the plan during the 12-month project period. Ibero-American Development is an affiliate of Ibero-American Action League Inc. in Rochester.

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