In 1973 a number of concerned and compassionate members of the White Plains community met to discuss the growing Hispanic population in White Plains and their urgent need for a variety of social services. After many conversations and numerous meetings, the group, which included the current Executive Director, Isabel E. Villar, formed a charitable organization – El Centro Hispano - dedicated to offering the much-needed services.
Born out of a concerned response to a very real need, El Centro Hispano was established in January 1974 under the auspices of the White Plains Community Action Program in the Chapel Hall at St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church. It remained part of the Community Action Program until 2000 when it became a separate entity with its own self-governing Board of Directors. El Centro Hispano is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt charitable organization.
The area’s Hispanic population has grown exponentially since 1974 and so has the need to provide a wider range of programs and services. Over the years El Centro Hispano has continually adapted to meet the ever expanding needs of its clients and every year since its founding, more and more individuals have received direct services at El Centro Hispano.
El Centro Hispano’s mission is to assist, support, and strengthen Hispanic families; to help them become self- sufficient; and to ease their transition into their new culture while maintaining and enriching their own.
El Centro Hispano accomplishes this by offering a variety of programs and by presenting bilingual and cross-cultural activities throughout the year. Here is just a sampling of some of the services offered:
Health, housing, and employment referrals
Written and oral translation assistance
Counseling and advocacy
Mentoring and tutorial programs
English language classes
Sponsoring of Girl and Boy Scout troops
Scholarships for high school students
Because of its closeness to and knowledge of the Hispanic community, El Centro Hispano is called upon by many agencies and organizations, including the local school system, to communicate important information to the Hispanic community.
As the needs of our community have changed, so has El Centro Hispano. In 2008, in an effort to improve our clients’ computer literacy, the staff and Board of Directors began a capital campaign to build a state-of-the-art Technology Center. Within a year’s time, the center was built and our clients – from youngsters to seniors – have been flocking to classes at the center.
As the area’s Hispanic population continues to grow, so does the need for the type of programs and services offered by El Centro Hispano. Every year since its founding in 1974, more and more clients have received direct services at El Centro Hispano.
Our Staff and Board of Directors
All of El Centro Hispano’s services and programs are provided by a small staff which includes Executive Director Isabel E. Villar, Assistant Director H. Judith Aucar, and one other full-time staff member. El Centro Hispano also has one part-time staff person and several adjunct employees many of whom serve double duty working in one or more of El Centro’s programs.
The Board of Directors actively supports the staff in numerous ways throughout the year. Every five years the Board joins the staff to celebrate the anniversary of El Centro Hispano’s beginning. In October of 2014, the 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains. It honored the main contributors to our Technology Center and individuals and organizations who provided extraordinary help to El Centro Hispano.
The following individuals are officers and members of the Board of Directors:
Cecilia Bikkal, Esq.
Dr. Scott B. MacDonald
Martha Duval, DDS
Luz H. Barrera
Chris Cabanillas, Esq.
Hon. Larry F. Delgado
Lucille A. Fontana, Esq.
Lourdes Lopez- Valle
Dr. Annette Rotter
Dr. Norberto I. Torres-Otero
Robin A. Bikkal, Esq., President Emeritus
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Isabel E. Villar, Founding Executive Director H. Judith Aucar, Deputy Director
The staff and Board of Directors of El Centro Hispano are very grateful for the support that the center has received over the years from generous benefactors, foundations, corporate sponsors, and through county grants.