Two thousand fourteen will mark the tenth anniversary of La Paz Chattanooga, an area non-profit organization that works to engage the region's fast-growing Latino population. While La Paz plans to celebrate that milestone in various ways, a chief organizational focus will be the strategic restructuring of funding support.
At the end of 2013, La Paz's financial relationship with the federal government will draw to a close, and moving forward the non-profit hopes to source all revenue from local and regional entities.
"For 10 years, La Paz has served as the bridge between area Latinos and the rest of Chattanooga," said Stacy Johnson, executive director of La Paz Chattanooga. "We are a community organization contributing to the strength and connectivity of our entire city, and we have always felt that when it comes to funding, the most common sense approach would be to allow local stakeholders to invest in our programming and services. We want our champions to be local champions."
Historically, a large portion of La Paz's funding has come from government grants - 2014 will change that. During the past decade government finances helped launch some of La Paz's most successful programs, but on Jan. 1, the non-profit will be operating on a budget that includes no federal or state assistance. To fill the financial void, La Paz is looking to area businesses, individual donors, and other entities to be the driving force behind the organization's mission: To empower and engage Chattanooga's Latino population through advocacy, education, and inclusion, officals said.
"This is where we've wanted to be for quite some time," said Ms. Johnson. "Government funding can be a double-edged sword. It's alluring because when it comes your way, it's usually in large chunks. However, you never know how long the funding will be there for you, which makes it hard to create and run meaningful long-term programs.
"State and federal funding have given La Paz the resources to strengthen existing programs, as well as the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the field," continued Johnson. "For example, Dr. Julia Perilla of the National Latino Network, our keynote speaker at next Monday's Latino Leadership Awards, has given La Paz the consultation and advice needed to move our services to the next level. So, though we're not saying we'll never again compete for state or federal grants, we believe that to be the force we need to be in our community, we have to operate from a more sustainable framework. And we know we can do that with invested local partners who share in our successes by living in the stronger community we contribute to."
The Latino population across the Chattanooga area is in the midst of rapid growth. In 1990, the United States Census Bureau estimated that less than one percent of the total Hamilton County population was Latino. Estimates for the year 2020 put that number close to 12 percent. In 2012, La Paz Chattanooga served over 4,000 clients through a wide range of programs, with a focus on health and wellness, strong families, education, and civic engagement. Over the next few years, La Paz leadership expects to see an increased demand on the organization's services.
"Time and again, La Paz has demonstrated its value to the people who choose to call Chattanooga home," said Ms. Johnson. "We have no doubt that we'll have some great partners step up the plate financially so we can continue to create a stronger, more connected city."