How a Colonial Heights food pantry is reaching out to Virginia's increasing Hispanic population

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Posted at 4:17 PM, Mar 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-27 16:17:32-04

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- In Colonial Heights, several organizations are working to ensure the state's growing Hispanic community has everything it needs to thrive.

A busy day at the Colonial Heights Food Pantry will also be the first time that the food pantry will focus on the city's Hispanic population with a resource fair.

“A lot of them, they don’t know about the resources that are out there and by us being out, they are able to see and learn what’s out there to help them," said Lily Bell Quinones of Aetna Better Health of Virginia.

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Lily Bell Quinones

Quinones is with one of about a dozen businesses/agencies that offer bilingual services to the Latino community in Central Virginia and the Tri-Cities.

On Wednesday, her goal was to talk with families with small children.

“Especially for the low income, most of the kids, they need Medicaid, and when they qualify they’re able to pick one of the plans," Quinones said.

Lil Espinoza with Southside Community Development says she was at the fair to help with home ownership and financial education.

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Lil Espinoza

“We’ve actually seen a huge movement of Latino families coming in through the Colonial Heights area, so this is a great idea to do it right here at the food pantry," Espinoza said.

For the food pantry, seeing an increase in Latinos seeking assistance, was the reason for the resource fair.

 “We know that the need exists in the community among the Latino population and we’re really happy to be able to offer those services to them today," said Jeremy Rommel, an employee at the food pantry.

One young woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she came to the resource fair in search for a job.

"They are looking for employment and so they’re hoping just to be able to acquire employment through one of the agencies," she told CBS 6 senior reporter Wayne Covil, through an interpreter.

Espinoza says many people are also like her, looking for one thing.

"Employment is a big one, everyone is looking for a job, not so much a handout, everyone is looking to get a job, so they can have financial stability," Espinoza said.

Michel Zajur, CEO of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says the Hispanic population, now at 10% will continue to grow. He also says many are coming to Virginia to achieve a goal.

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Michel Zajur

"They’re here just like everyone else, the Quality of life in Richmond and Central Virginia offers that quality of life and opportunities," Zajur said. "They're here for the American Dream."

And the resource fair was just one way to hopefully help them achieve those goals.

With the number of people who passed through the Colonial Heights food pantry for the Hispanic resource event, the pantry says they plan on holding another, larger event on April 13.

More bilingual agencies will be at this event, available to assist members of the community.

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