For more information about La Paz or to assist the organization call 423-624-8414 or go to www.LaPazChattanooga.org.
An organization that assists about 4,000 people a year with issues such as school registration, getting health care and overcoming domestic violence will lose 40 percent of its funding next year on its 10th anniversary.
La Paz is asking the Chattanooga community to help.
"If La Paz did not exist, Chattanooga's relationship with the fastest-growing demographic in this area would be set back a decade," said David Martin, La Paz's development and communications director.
Many Latino people would go back to living in isolation, he said.
But because the organization exists, the Latino community has a place to come where people who were previously isolated and alone can feel at home and learn to be leaders in their community.
La Paz, which means "the peace," is a nonprofit focused on empowering and engaging the local Hispanic community.
La Paz's annual budget is $350,000, including about $140,000 in state and federal grants that will end at the end of this year. Local foundations put in about $210,000, and the organization's leaders are hoping local businesses and individuals will contribute more to help keep its programs going.
"Without La Paz there would be kids enrolled in school whose parents have no idea what they're being exposed to every day," said Martin. "And we know that a hallmark of education is parental engagement."
La Paz's paid staff of seven and 30 volunteers helped more than 2,000 children whose parents don't speak English register for school this year.
People come to La Paz because it is a fun environment, but they also learn about resources and networks to get what they need, said Executive Director Stacy Johnson.
Martin said that when a mom gets a letter from EPB that she can't translate, she comes to La Paz. People come when a daughter runs away from home or when they need help finding a job.
"And at the end of the day they walk out of here a leader in their house, in their church and in their school," Johnson said.
Hamilton County's Hispanic community, less than 1 percent of the county population in 1990, is projected to make up about 12 percent by 2020, Martin said.
La Paz is crucial because it is a bridge between the Latino community and the general population. Some Hispanics come to Chattanooga not even speaking Spanish, let alone English. Some are indigenous people and speak only their native languages, said Vivian Lozano, client services coordinator.
Martin said the organization's goal isn't just to survive, but to thrive. If more local businesses and individuals contributed, the nonprofit could reach an annual budget of $500,000 and would be able to help even more people.
"We feel like we're working on behalf of the community," he said. "We would love to see the community join us."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at 423-757-6431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.