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Guisselle Mendoza, the new executive director of Toledo’s Adelante Latino Resource Center, is no stranger to the organization.
She previously served four years as the coordinator of the center’s Early Literacy Program and two years as director of programs.
The financially strapped agency has been searching for a new leader since Jan. 18, 2013, when former executive director Mary Price resigned under board pressure.
“I prayed for it for a very long time,” Ms. Mendoza said, referring to the job. “I kept asking God for direction, and I saw an opportunity and I took it. What’s great is the support I’m getting from all the community. It’s very humbling.”
Ms. Mendoza, 33, a native of Nicaragua, knows the job will be challenging — the agency has lost more than one-third of its federal funding during the last decade, agency officials say. Ms. Mendoza is Adelante’s seventh executive director since 2010.
The Adelante board officially hired Ms. Mendoza as the agency’s new leader Feb. 3.
Board chair Carrie L. Sponseller said Ms. Mendoza’s experience, skill, and passion made her perfect for the job.
“The board unanimously and wholeheartedly supported promoting Guisselle to the executive director position, and we could not be happier with the community’s response to Guisselle and the positive energy she brings to Adelante every day,” Ms. Sponseller said. “I am confident that Guisselle will lead Adelante with grace and continue working with individuals and organizations who partner with Adelante to provide the much needed programs and services to our community.”
Former board chairman Wendy Ziems-Mueller had been serving as interim director. She returns to the board as vice chairman.
Ana Rodriguez, Adelante’s Early Literacy Program coordinator, believes Ms. Mendoza is deserving of the position and will bring stability to the agency, located at 520 Broadway.
“She’s been here a long time and knows the ins-and-outs of Adelante,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “It’s great that we have somebody that’s here to stay. She’s passionate about Adelante.”
Adelante was founded 19 years ago by Ramon and Joseph Perez of Toledo and Roy Vargas of Adrian.
The trio initially focused on providing substance abuse services, such as counseling for heroin addicts, which was a major problem in Toledo’s Latino community in the 1990s, Ramon Perez, said.
Current Toledo Councilman Jack Ford provided the initial funding for Adelante, Mr. Perez said. At the time Mr. Ford was director of Substance Abuse Services Inc., and he obtained a grant from the Ohio Department of Health that allowed Adelante to start operating.
The nonprofit organization thrived for many years, but funding and leadership problems finally took its toll, said Mr. Perez, who is no longer associated with Adelante.
“The turnover there has been hurting the organization for a number of years and hasn’t allowed Adelante to meet the needs of the community,” Mr. Perez said.
He’s hopeful Ms. Mendoza will be given the opportunity to bring stability and strong leadership back to the group.
“You need someone in that position at least three years to get things stabilized,” said Mr. Perez, who is now a local community organizer for another agency.
“There’s great hope for Adelante. One key is to develop stronger relationships with different agencies and organizations, especially Latino organizations.”
Ms. Mendoza said her goal is to return the agency to its roots.
“I’m going back to the basics, the fundamentals of what Adelante is all about,” Ms. Mendoza said.
The first step will be to find out what those needs are, because a community’s needs evolve and change over time, she said.
“We need to ask the community what its needs are,” Ms. Mendoza said. “I don’t think that’s shaking the tree too hard. I do think it will cause some changes and bring back some programs to Adelante.”
Adelante currently offers a variety of programs including youth mentoring, tutoring, and drug-prevention programs.
It also offers literacy and home-ownership programs for pregnant women.
Contact Federico Martinez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.