Local Hispanic group looks to grow, starting with Salsa y Salsas! celebration

With a booming Hispanic community that makes up an estimated 20 percent of the state's population, the nonprofit advocacy group Nevada Hispanic Services says it needs to grow as well, starting with a bigger Salsa y Salsas! celebration this September.

For the past eight years, NHS has hosted its Salsa y Salsas! festival to raise awareness and money as well as thank residents of Carson City for help in aiding its new Hispanic residents settle in.

This year, the organization's 15th, NHS is adding a Salsas Dinner Gala to stretch festivities into a two-day event. The new event is visualized as a kind of awards dinner to local residents who have helped the Hispanic community here.

"It's our way of thanking our community for their support over the last 15 years," said Raquel Knecht, director of the Carson City office.

The dinner gala and festival is scheduled for Sept. 15 and 16, respectively, and the group is looking for corporate sponsors for both.

City supervisor and Hispanic services advocate Pete Livermore said the dinner might be a chance for private businesses to recognize Hispanic employees who have excelled.

Expanding the celebration is a symbol of the need for the organization itself to expand, said NHS Executive Director Jesse Gutierrez.

Over the past three years, the group's workload has nearly tripled, from serving 12,000 people a year to now seeing nearly 35,000 - 6,000 of those in the Carson City office and the rest in the organization's only other office, in Reno.

Knecht said the first thing the Carson City office needs to do is expand its hours. With a budget for just six part-time employees, the office is open only three days a week. Helping immigrants settle into their new community by aiding with everything from naturalization paperwork to parenting classes and youth programs, the Carson City service needs to be open at least five days a week, Knecht said.

The nonprofit would also like to expand the scope of its work by adding more locations in Nevada and by adding more activities, like voter registration. In the last election, Knecht said, just 15 percent of adult Hispanics in Northern Nevada voted.

For all that growth, the organization needs to raise awareness and money.

"We're here and we can help, but we need help," Gutierrez said.

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at cmcconnell@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.

For more information

Contact Raquel Knecht at 826-1818 or nhscc@gbis.com


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