Camino Community Center expands services, helping LatinX community during pandemic

Camino Community Center expands services, helping LatinX community during pandemic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - State health leaders issue an urgent call to the LatinX community in North Carolina as COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect this population.

According to DHHS, about 42 percent of COVID-19 cases across the state are in the Hispanic community. In Mecklenburg County, Hispanic people account for about a third of the COVID-19 cases.

Thurday, Dr. Mandy Cohen and other state health leaders issued an urgent call to the Hispanic community to remain vigilant. Everyone is encouraged to wear face masks, social distance, and wash their hands frequently. If anyone shows symptoms, they are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19.

“I’m one of the many people that was affected by COVID-19. It was a very hard two weeks. I’ve had another week of recovery and thanks to God and the church, I’m here,” Jose Flores of Charlotte, NC said.

Flores immigrated to America from Honduras. He is a single dad of two children. When he contracted coronavirus, he struggled to take care of his family.

“I’m very grateful for the congregation and to God. While I was very sick and out of work, my kids are so young. They can’t get a car, they can’t go to the store. There was money but they couldn’t do anything. And they would tell me ‘Dad, the food is running out.” And I was devastated. Trying to handle the situation calmly. I never thought this is impossible. I tried to stay positive to make it through,” Flores said.

While he was sick, he leaned on the Camino Community Center in Charlotte for help. Camino is a nonprofit that has been in the Charlotte community for more than 20 years. The organization has expanded to offer low-cost healthcare, behavioral health services, a fitness center, thrift store, and a food pantry to anyone in need. Founder Rusty Price says many people who come to Camino Community Center for help are from the LatinX community.

“We try to help them work hopeful and healthy, productive lives. That’s our mission,” Price said.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Price says he noticed an increase in demand on the food pantry. But the nonprofit fell on hard times like everyone else.

“I really thought when this all happened we were going to go out of business. Our funding sources were basically all cut off,” Price said.

“We ran into some people, undocumented people, hardworking people. Where their job had just gone away. It was. They aren’t going to get a stimulus check, they aren’t going to get unemployment. And here are these people who were going to starve right here in Charlotte, NC,” Price said.

He knew they couldn’t shut their doors even if they were struggling to keep them open. There were too many people who needed Camino Community Center’s help.

He says Blue Cross Blue Shield came in to help keep their doors open.

“we made an investment of 40,000 for them. To help them to increase the time to provide services,” Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Gustavo Bernal said.

Bernal says they chose to help Camino Community Center because the nonprofit meets two of BCBS goals: providing food security and more access to care.

Since the donation, other community partners have stepped in to help Camino Community Center. Price says they have not only kept their doors open but they’ve expanded services.

“We have just seen this beautiful transformation. Our capacity has increased so much. And now we get to help people every day and a lot of people,” Price said.

A woman who did not want to share her full name said she is grateful for all that Camino has done for her and her friends and family. She immigrated to the U.S. from Salvador in 1991.

“For us and for my family and friends, Camino has been very important because there’s not a lot of work, there were layoffs and it was hard to pay the bills and get food,” Marina said. “There’s a lot of people that are sick, they don’t know what to do. and when someone gets to Camino and they are told “yes, I’ll help you,” it’s a great feeling.”

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