Berks Hispanic Center Celebrates Reading’s New Town Center

Addressing an audience of more than 100 gathered on the pavement outside the prominent new Daniel Torres Hispanic Center space in Reading town center on Wednesday, Michael Toledo paid tribute to a man whose statue stands nearby and would have loved to see it come to fruition.

Toledo, president of the center, recalled that 12 years ago, shortly after he began his term as president, the late Albert R. Boscov, whom he described as a pillar of the community, suggested to him that the organization has its own house. . Boscov, according to Toledo, even offered to help him find one.

“This man said, ‘Mike, I’ve been in the community for a long time. I’ve seen a lot, and I can tell you as sure as we sit here that the role of the Hispanic center in our community is going to be so important given the changing demographics and trends that we’re seeing that it’s important for the Hispanic Center to have its own home.’”

At the time, Toledo said, the center was financially unable to accept Boscov’s offer.

“And I think I may have been the only person to say no to this gentleman,” he said, adding that Boscov had offered to stand beside him when he was ready to move.

With the support of federal, state and local elected officials and community partners – many of whom were present for the grand opening of the new center at Second and Washington streets, in the space formerly occupied by the Panevino restaurant across from the RC Theaters – Reading Movies 11 & IMAX – it finally paid off.

The Hispanic Center recently moved into a larger, more modern space at the western entrance to Reading, three blocks east of its long-term leased space at Fifth and Washington streets, to better accommodate the program and service needs of the growing Latino population in the Reading area.

“This pillar of our community is here today in spirit and in statue,” Toledo said. “Mr. Albert Boscov. Albert, you are a man of your word. Thank you.”

Boscov was a businessman, philanthropist and strong supporter of the city. The larger, modern space will allow the Hispanic Center, also known as Centro Hispano, to better serve the needs of the community and demonstrates Berks County’s continued commitment and support, Toledo said.

“It is a tangible reminder of our mission to inspire, support and enhance the acculturation of the growing Latino community through collaborative initiatives designed to empower individuals and families to improve their quality of life,” did he declare.

U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat from Chester County whose district includes Reading, said she enjoyed a positive relationship with Toledo during her four years in Washington and is pleased that city and county officials directed some of the funding they received through American Rescue. Map in the center.

The organization played a vital role in providing nutritional and educational resources to young people during the pandemic shutdown in 2020 and assisted in the distribution of vaccines, the MP said.

“Thanks to the collaborative and positive relationships we have with each other, we’re not just surviving right now,” Houlahan said. This groundbreaking ceremony is a physical example of a thriving community. I’m excited to see where our bright future can take us.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Robert Torres said he last visited the center on March 5, 2020, and it left him with a positive impression. He was struck by the vibrancy of the center, with its music and conversation, fiercely competitive domino games and a delicious lunch.

“We have all faced and overcome so many challenges since then,” he said. “This new center is a testament to the resilience and long-standing commitment that Centro Hispano and Casa De La Amistad (the name of the senior center) have had in providing quality services and supports to seniors in the community. of Reading.”

Torres said the critical importance of the 500 state-supported senior centers cannot be stressed enough. After the centers closed during the lockdown, Department of Aging officials faced new challenges in meeting the needs of seniors who relied on the centers for meals and socializing.

“And for those who attend socialization centers, we have had to think of new ways to involve them to prevent the negative physical and mental aspects of isolation, which I know is one of the main reasons for ‘exist from Casa.’

The number of Latinos age 60 and older is growing, as is the general population.

“It’s a place where people meet with friends, socialize and also get services, and over the years Centro Hispano has only grown in importance to the community,” said Senator Judy Schwank.

She credited Toledo’s leadership and staff dedication.

The senator also had news to announce: the awarding of a $250,000 state grant to support the new facility.

Much to the delight of many onlookers, she made her announcement in both Spanish and English.

Reading Mayor Eddie Moran said he established a relationship with the center many years ago when he was a federally licensed health insurance agent and was a strong supporter as he saw the types of services that the center provides daily to the Latin American population.

With the support of the city council, he granted $500,000 from the city’s appropriation of U.S. federal bailout funds to the Hispanic Center.

“You can be sure that whenever Centro Hispano says, ‘Eddie, we need help,’ we’ll be there,” the mayor said.

Berks County Commissioner Michael Rivera, a member of the center’s board of directors and former president, took to the podium accompanied by his two fellow commissioners, Kevin Barnhardt and Christian Leinbach. Rivera said he was grateful to his colleagues for supporting the allocation of $300,000 in county-controlled ARP funds.

City Council President Johanny Cepeda Freytiz, a member of the center’s board of directors, thanked the mayor and his fellow city council members for their support.

She said the center played a vital role in her father’s final months before his death this year.

“Centro will always, therefore, hold such a special place in my heart because you care about you,” Cepeda-Freytiz said. “You take care of the most vulnerable members of the community. And for that part, we, as a city and a community, should be grateful. We must continue to advocate and fight for more resources, services and opportunities.

Before cutting the ribbon, Toledo said the road to the new center was paved decades ago by the likes of Daniel Torres, for whom the center is named, and Frank Colon.

“It was their hard work, dedication and vision for the future that set us on the path,” he said.

Hispanic Center Director Michael Toledo and Reading Mayor Eddie Moran join local, state and national officials, board members and guests to cut the ribbon Wednesday at the location of the new center in the first block from North Second Street. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)
Guests of the Centro Hispano senior center sit down for lunch after the groundbreaking ceremony for the new center's location in the first block of North Second Street.  (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Guests of the Centro Hispano senior center sit down for lunch after the groundbreaking ceremony for the new center’s location in the first block of North Second Street. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

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