York City partnering with AmeriCorps, CASA to bring Latino voice to economic development

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York City Mayor Michael Helfrich proclaimed September 15 through October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month during a Monday, Sept. 10, press conference at City Hall.

York City will be partnering with the civil service organization AmeriCorps and the regional immigrant advocacy organization CASA to bring a Latino volunteer into the city's economic and community development department.

CASA Director Gustavo Torres announced the partnership during York City Mayor Michael Helfrich's Monday, Sept. 10, proclamation in City Hall solidifying Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month.

The city is 30.9 percent Hispanic or Latino, excluding those who relocated from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last year, according to 2016 U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

For this reason, Torres said, the city will be partnering with CASA and AmeriCorps, which was created by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 to recruit volunteers for public service, to bring more resources to the Latino population. 

"Thirty percent of the city is Latino, and we believe it is important that they have additional resources to fully integrate into society through people who really want to make a difference," Torres said. "We tremendously value the partnership with the mayor and AmeriCorps."

From left, CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres and YMCA York Branch Executive Director Craig Wolf speak during a press conference welcoming immigrant service organization CASA into their new location at York City Hall in York City, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The economic and community development department in the city has lacked a Spanish-speaking employee for too long, Helfrich said, and as a result, "we're missing out on approximately one-third of the population."

A lack of Latino representation in the city has also been criticized by Latino and other minority advocates.

More:York City Latino population is growing, but government representation remains absent

The mayor added that "having a translator isn't enough" to adequately provide resources such as information about business regulations and the steps to be taken to Latinos in the city who want to start a business.

As a result, the city will pay an AmeriCorps volunteer an annual $10,000 stipend to work with Shilvosky Buffaloe, the department's acting director, and act as a liaison between the city and Latinos interested in opening a business.

"The Latino community is the largest minority community and fastest-growing community in the city," Helfrich said. "If we're not doing more to prepare for their growth and success, then we're missing out on the city's potential growth and success."

In addition to the city volunteer, CASA is working to find 17 other AmeriCorps volunteers to serve the Latino population in York, Harrisburg and Lancaster, Torres said.

Up to nine of those volunteers will work in CASA's York City office to help immigrants with their path to citizenship, act as a welcoming committee to immigrants coming into the city and more.

The volunteers will also travel throughout York County to provide such services, he said.

CASA already has 10 volunteers signed up, Torres added. The organization is planning to recruit the remaining eight and officially roll out the partnership within the next couple of weeks.