Hispanic Alliance Georgia, also known as La Alianza, is a nonprofit in Gainesville that connects the local Latino community and provides for families’ most basic needs.
According to information on the nonprofit’s website, Latinos represent roughly 41 percent of Gainesville’s population. However, Vanesa Sarazua, founder and director of Hispanic Alliance Georgia, said many of them struggle to make ends meet.
“We have a lot of our Latinos living in poverty…it is the largest population living in poverty, [and] a lot of our families have to decide every month whether they have to pay the bills or buy food,” said Sarazua.
Sarazua said Hispanic Alliance Georgia nonprofit assists the Latino community in four areas: education, financial stability, health and immigration/legal services.
Following the Foundation Food Group tragedy in January of this year, staff with Hispanic Alliance Georgia stepped up to assist the families of those who lost loved ones.
“Thanks to local partners, churches and individual donors, we were able to help our five local families who lost a loved one in the tragedy at Foundation Food Group with $5000 each,” said Sarazua. “This helped them to keep things together as they dealt with their loss. We also helped families during that difficult time with food and mental health support as well as connect to resources to help deal with this tragedy.”
In addition, nonprofit staff have worked diligently to ensure the health and wellbeing of the Latino community since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sarazua said she and volunteers with Hispanic Alliance Georgia have partnered with 30 different agencies to host drive-thru food distribution events.
These distribution events have provided meals for 10,000 local families, according to Sarazua, and the nonprofit continues to store food for future distribution.
Hispanic Alliance Georgia has also hosted Facebook Live sessions to keep the Latino community informed about COVID-19. Local health professionals join these sessions to offer insight into topics such as vaccines and testing.
Sarazua said the Facebook Live sessions have also been used to cover a variety of other relevant topics, including domestic abuse and law enforcement.
She said these outreach efforts have brought members of the Latino and surrounding communities together during a difficult time.
“Our distributions included people of all sorts of backgrounds coming together to take care of that need that we saw during COVID, so it was a wonderful thing to see…we’ve had clubs and businesses come in and volunteer to help these people during this time,” said Sarazua.
Despite the pandemic, staff with Hispanic Alliance Georgia continued to offer their regular services, including the GED Fastrack Spanish program. This program helps Spanish-speakers obtain their GED diploma.
Although traditionally offered only in person, Sarazua said the program transitioned to an online format during the pandemic. As a result, more students from around the state were able to participate.
“We grew from twelve in-person students before the pandemic to 80 that also cover most of the state, so anybody can enroll and actually take these classes online," she said.
Sarazua and nonprofit staff are also looking ahead to their biggest annual event- Latino Fest. This day-long festival is scheduled to take place on Sept. 18 on the downtown Gainesville square in partnership with the City of Gainesville.
“We’re looking forward to showcasing folklore, local bands, of course the delicious tacos and Latino food…also be able to come together and show some of those local, Latino artists as well,” said Sarazua.
Anyone interested in joining or volunteering with Hispanic Alliance Georgia can find more information on their website. Sarazua said a contact form is available on the website for potential volunteers.
“Our Latino community is embedded in this community, it has so many contributions to the local economy and also the state economy,” said Sarazua. “Our Latinos have a wonderful, rich heritage and culture that we try to showcase and highlight in our work and everything that we do…we have a wonderful, local Latino community and we love them.”