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Published: Sunday, 7/29/2001

Social service agency marks 5th year

When State Rep. Jack Ford (D., Toledo) speaks of Adelante, Inc., he sounds like a proud father.

About 11 years after he helped found the substance abuse program targeted at Hispanics, Mr. Ford said he is proud of its progress.

“It's important that the black and Hispanic communities work together and move ahead together instead of falling into a competitive posture,” said Mr. Ford, who is African-American. “Adelante is one of the things I'm most proud of having a part in.”

The program celebrates its fifth year as an independent full-service social service agency with a banquet today at the Radisson Hotel. Mr. Ford is expected to be given an award established to honor those who had an impact on the agency and, in turn, the Latino community.

Adelante is one of a handful of substance abuse and community service programs in the state that offer bilingual services. That attracts migrant farm workers and other Spanish-speaking immigrants from all over northwest Ohio.

Celso Rodriguez, chairman of Adelante's board of directors for two years, said while most of the program's treatment is done at Substance Abuse Services Inc., Adelante is bursting at the seams with substance abuse educational programs and tutorial programs for at-risk teenagers. It also conducts programs for individuals with mental illness and those with HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Rodriguez likened the services of Adelante to that of the old Guadalupe Center, which was a fixture in Toledo's Hispanic community before it closed in 1982 and burned down four years later. Adelante, at 520 Broadway, is several blocks away from where the Guadalupe Center stood.

“In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Guadalupe Center was a one-stop service agency for Hispanics,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

Because of its growing budget and diversifying services, Mr. Ford encouraged Adelante to spin off into its own agency in 1996. He helped get more than $200,000 in state funds that went toward purchasing its building on Broadway.

Community activist Sylvia Muniz-Mutchler said the agency helped break down the social service walls for many Hispanics.

“Hispanics are a close, tight-knit community,” said Mrs. Muniz-Mutchler, one of the banquet organizers. “Adelante has Latino counselors and workers who are able to come into the community and help people.”

Louis Escobar, Adelante's executive director and a Toledo city councilman, said the agency continues to grow as it reaches out into the community.

“It's helped the Latino community become an active player in the larger community,” Mr. Escobar said. “I think it has changed the lives of people through its programs.”

Roy Vargas, former state Rep. John Garcia (R., Toledo), and La Prensa, a local Hispanic weekly newspaper, will receive special recognition at the banquet.

Mr. Escobar said the agency can make an even bigger impact in the community.

“Our banquet allows us to celebrate the many victories we've enjoyed the last five years,” Mr. Escobar said. “But it also reminds us of the great needs we still have in our community.”



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