Community Connections - SPS and Casa Latina

Submitted by Sabrina Spannagel Bradley on
Casa Latina staff passing out SPS donated gifts to families at Santa’s Workshop in 2020

For twenty years, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies has maintained a tradition of giving to a local community charity connected to our mission and core values.  According to Emily Gaggia, education coordinator at Casa Latina, “the Day Workers program has a membership of over one thousand workers."  Before the COVID 19 pandemic, there were about 150 workers actively seeking employment through Casa Latina. Each year, SPS faculty, staff and graduate students have purchased gifts for the children of the active day workers. This required coordination between Casa Latina staff and department volunteers who created a list of children and ages. Department members would select a child or family and purchase holiday gifts, which would later be delivered to Casa Latina in time for the annual gathering, where the presents would be distributed. Emily says that oftentimes, these are the only gifts the children receive at holiday time.

 This year with the pandemic, there are nearly double the number of day workers seeking employment to support their families, making the need greater than ever. Also problematic, the pandemic has created difficulty in the collection and distribution of gifts. After some creative brainstorming with staff at Casa Latina, we were able to coordinate a virtual gift list on Amazon for the children, making it possible to shop online and purchase presents to be shipped.  A “Santa’s workshop” was held on December 19th, and Casa Latina volunteers distributed the gifts to the workers for their children. Emily reported that the folks were “really happy to receive them”.

 SPS members like Marilís Mediavilla look forward to contributing to the gift drive each year and involving their own children in the selection of items for other kids:

Sharing and supporting our community have always been a priority for our family, and Casa Latina has been close to our hearts for quite a few years. When Christmas comes, my children always look forward to participating, as kind of a secret Santa, in the gift drive and bringing a smile to Casa Latina's boys and girls. This exciting time of year helps us remember not only the power of giving but also the joy and happiness we all find at home in helping others, especially children.

 We have enjoyed this community partnership, which has brought some cheer to our neighbors, especially during this difficult time. Those interested in learning more about Casa Latina and their mission can visit the Casa Latina website.