While working as an interpreter at University Hospital in 1996, Eduardo Crespi, who is a Registered Nurse, recognized the need for culturally appropriate services for the Latino community, and envisioned the Centro Latino de Salud, Educación y Cultura (health, education and culture).
In the spring of 2000, Crespi’s internship with the State Office of Minority Health created the opportunity for the Centro to become a reality. On April 1, 2000, the Centro opened its small office in Parkade Center. To accommodate its continued growth and expanding services, Centro Latino relocated to a larger space in the Parkade Center in January 2002. With assistance from the local Habitat for Humanity, Centro Latino’s new office space was constructed within Los Tres Hermanos Mexican grocery store.
In 2005 Centro Latino moved to 206 Austin Ave. in the First Ward of Columbia.
In July 2009 Centro Latino started the renovation of an old building in the heart of the low income neighborhood and by April 2011 moved into its renovated permanent location at 609 N. Garth, Columbia. In October 25 of 2011 Centro Latino purchased the building. The newly renovated building serves as the new home of Centro Latino's Public Health, Social Services, Education and Legal Access offices as well as its commercial kitchen called Comedor Popular or People's Diner. In April 2012 Centro Latino organized a 30 days open house for the community to tour the organization's new home.
The mission of Centro Latino is to empower Latinos, Latino families and the general public through provision of services and guidance in navigating the health, education and cultural resources of mid-Missouri. Centro Latino provides assistance to immigrants as they become acclimated to their new environment with its different laws, customs, and language. Families and individuals that contact the Centro receive orientation to the community as well as physical, mental, and social support. The Centro strives to empower Latinos to live in an environment of mutual respect that encompasses personal interaction in the community as well as appropriate treatment by, and interaction with, service providers. Centro Latino helps all Latino families regardless of national origin, religion, or immigration status.
Since its inception, Centro Latino has served hundreds of Latino individuals and families. Striving to preserve the rich Latino heritage, Centro Latino has hosted numerous convivios, dances, and holiday celebrations.
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