The need Conexión Américas addresses in the Latino community is best understood in the context of the remarkable demographic changes taking place in Nashville.
The 2000 Census showed a 446 percent growth of the Hispanic population in Nashville between 1990 and 2000. During this time, public agencies and nonprofit organizations were dramatically challenged by this wave of newcomers.
Although a few programs in large nonprofit organizations were addressing particular and isolated needs by 2000, no organization was fully focused on Latino families in a comprehensive way. Furthermore, no organization had full cultural competence to work effectively with our community’s newest neighbors, who were coming from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
The founders of Conexión Américas, María Clara Mejía, José González and Renata Soto, professionals in nonprofit, business and social development, understood that void and its challenges.
In 2002, the co-founders teamed up with an existing small nonprofit group, the Hispanic Family Resource Center (HFRC), that was exclusively dedicated to providing information and referral services on health-related matters. The merger, which broadened services, allowed for the implementation of a holistic approach to help Latino families.
Later, the original information and referral service of the HFRC evolved into the Spanish Help Line for Middle Tennessee and Conexión Américas’ programs now serve over 9,000 families and individuals per year.
In addition, award-winning programs in the social, civic and economic integration areas have been successfully developed and implemented. The organization’s funding base has been also greatly diversified. Today Conexión Américas is recognized as a leading Hispanic force in the Middle Tennessee region, the state and nation.
In 2005, Conexión Américas was named the recipient of the Best Innovative Partnership Award from NeighborWorks America for our Open Doors (Puertas Abiertas) homeownership program. In 2007, Conexión Américas received the national Family Strengthening Award presented by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the National Council of La Raza (now UnidosUS) and the Bank of America Neighborhood Builder Award, among several other awards and recognitions.
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