A local group has formed to build bridges between the growing Latino population in northeastern Oregon and the rest of the community.

Clara Beas-Fitzgerald, an instructor at Blue Mountain Community College in Boardman, has helped form a steering committee that hopes to create a new chapter of the Oregon Community Foundation in Umatilla and Morrow counties. Beas-Fitzgerald and other community members recently met with James Adriance, the state coordinator for the foundation’s Latino Partnership Program.

The program, which boasts projects located around the state, aims to strengthen leaders, organizations, education and services in Latino communities and helps create bonds between Latino and non-Latino community members.

Beas-Fitzgerald said the informal discussion at the committee’s recent gathering centered around small grant opportunities through the Latino Partnership Program, the need for a part-time coordinator and a desire to bring in more residents to become steering committee members.

Beas-Fitzgerald said a program here would become an asset to the area.

“It’s geared to try and create a link between Latino and non-Hispanic communities,” she said. “People need to know that there are other foundations that have money for grants to help Hispanics.”

Those grants have been arriving in the hands of Hispanic Oregonians since the program began in 2001 in the northern Willamette Valley region.

After early successes, the foundation expanded the program to other parts of the state, setting up steering committees and hiring coordinators in southern and central Oregon.

The part-time coordinators are assigned with organizing training events, networking with local Latino leaders and making recommendations to the foundation.

Baes-Fitzgerald encouraged any interested individuals to apply for the coordinator position in this area or find out more information by contacting her at 541-481-3066 or Kathleen Cornett, vice president for programs for Oregon Community Foundation at kcornett@oregoncf.org.

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