The Hispanic American Latino Community Center of Harrisburg works to provide food, shelter, and learning opportunities to the youth and seniors of the community.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Harrisburg group helping the local Latino population has thousands of extra dollars to do their job.

FOX43 Vice President and General Manager Chris Topf presented a check for $7,500 to the executive director of the Latino Hispanic American Community Center (LHACC) in Harrisburg on Monday.

The donation will be used to help fund the program, which provides food, housing and learning opportunities to members of the Harrisburg Latino community.

Jesús Vaca-García, 17, helps out as much as he can at the center. He is a 2020 graduate of the organization’s LISTO leadership program, which provides Latino youth with self-development skills, mentorship and community service opportunities.

“It’s really valuable to me. As a Latino student and as a minority, because even though we’re all minorities, I feel welcome here,” Vaca-García said.

“[The program] empowers our youth by giving them the skills and resources they need to have a successful career path,” said LHACC Executive Director Gloria Vazquez-Merrick.

In addition to providing youth leadership, the organization, which has been in operation since 2010, provides basic food, clothing, and shelter to the Latino community.

On average, they feed about 200 families every week.

There is also a Sharing Wisdom program that reaches out to the area’s elderly population.

“There is a lot we want to do with the Sharing Wisdom program to continue to educate our seniors and help them not feel alone. [We want them to be] informed about what is happening and defuse that fear they have,” said Vázquez-Merrick.

The center is fully bilingual and is meant to be a place where people can feel at home. Vazquez-Merrick, who grew up just a few blocks from downtown, says the work she and others do to help the community is personal.

“It’s sincere. You’re not just doing a job, because it’s meaningful to you,” he said.

And she is not alone in that sentiment. It’s been two years since Vaca-García graduated from the LISTO Program, but she still spends a lot of time helping out.

He says it’s his way of giving back to the place that helped him so much as a young Latino in Harrisburg.

“[This place] It’s always been something I appreciate and it’s something I really want students like me to think about and attend,” Vaca-Garcia said.

The program’s skills helped him earn a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he plans to study nursing.

The $7,500 grant comes from the TEGNA Foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations that serve local communities. For more information on the LHACC, click here.

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