Ibero to celebrate opening of new Community Resource Center

On July 15, Ibero-American Action League will celebrate the grand opening of its new Community Resource Center — a neighborhood asset that was years in the making.

The center, located at 216 Clifford Ave., is part of the Pueblo Nuevo housing project and will serve as a hub for underserved populations living in northeast Rochester’s El Camino neighborhood. The center aims to provide staff, services and programs to bolster outreach and engagement.

“There’s no question (our community) is dealing with a lot of challenges with respect to income and poverty, employment and educational outcomes, and we want this center to be part of the solution,” said Miguel Melendez, Ibero’s chief community engagement officer. “We know we won’t solve everything, but creating an amenity that will benefit the neighborhood is a good place to start.”

New center has lots of space for meetings and educational activities

Since 2001, Ibero-American Development Corp. has owned the 13,000-square-foot former warehouse in which the center is located. The center’s earliest designs date back to 2016, and construction was completed in the spring of 2022, Melendez said.

The center occupies 10,000 square feet of the former warehouse and includes a sizeable multipurpose room, large conference room, two small conference rooms, an atrium and numerous offices that can be used for a variety of meetings and educational activities.

Case managers, for example, can help residents with self-assessments on such topics as income, housing and other basic needs, then make internal or external referrals to programs that can help, Melendez noted. They may match someone behind on rent with a cash-assistance program to avert an eviction, or help pay a bill to prevent a lowered credit score.

Health promoters can offer workshops on preventing cancer, stroke and COVID-19, focusing on the Latino community to improve health disparities, he added.

Ibero is looking to offer expanded services at the community center

Ibero hopes to increase the number of partnerships housed at the center over time. As of now, Melendez said, the Rochester Financial Empowerment Center, which provides free counseling for taking control of debt, creating budgets, setting up bank accounts and other financial goals, meets with community members there. In addition, a few health-insurance enrollers come to the center a couple times a week to make sure residents have access to health care.

The hope is that college-level courses, trade or bridge courses could be offered there as well.

“If one of the higher-ed institutions was willing to offer technical classes — or other classes — at the center to make them more accessible, this community would be open, willing and wanting to see that happen in this space,” Melendez said. “One of the big things we’ve seen as a barrier is transportation, and we really want to see if we can bring things closer to home (in the El Camino neighborhood).”

Ibero is customizing programming and looking at future expansion

Ibero is spending a lot of time customizing programming to the community it has come to know so well. It envisions the center will be a space used for neighborhood association or block club meetings; educational classes for those who speak English as a second language or need a high school equivalency diploma; and job fairs and workshops related to employment.

On July 12, the center hosted its first public meeting, on the development of downtown Rochester’s proposed High Falls State Park.

Melendez said that Ibero envisions to someday develop the remaining 3,000-square-feet of unused space at the center. One idea is possibly turning an old loading dock into a stage.

For now, residents are expressing enthusiasm for this new spot to gather, learn and grow.

“People are excited when they see the space,” Melendez said. “They remember it as a big, open warehouse, and now it’s a beautiful center. We’re excited about the prospect of continuing this work. It’s been a long time coming.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: A grand opening celebration for the new Community Resource Center at 216 Clifford Ave. will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. July 15. The celebration will feature music, games, refreshments and information on community resources. For more information, visit www.ibero.org.

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