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Lourdes Bennett: El Centro hires new Go-To Person for community relations


By La Prensa Staff


LORAIN, Dec. 24, 2018: Administrative assistant Lourdes Bennett has hit the ground running for Lorain-based El Centro de Servicios Sociales, Inc., as the main community contact for Latino families and individuals. Ms. Bennet joined the Latino nonprofit organization in October, replacing operations manager Manny Pedraza, who left for a position at Cuyahoga Community College [Tri-C] to mentor students.


“He grew in the position with more and more responsibility he had,” she explained. “With him leaving, I have to try to fill those shoes. He had been here so long and had a system going and so I’m just trying to learn that system and do some of the things he did and maybe just bring some new ideas that I have on some of the items as well.”

Lourdes Bennett with Santa Claus



But Ms. Bennett will serve as much more than an administrative assistant to executive director Victor Leandry in a position that has evolved into the lifeblood of the nonprofit. For example, she helped organize a Breakfast with Santa event held Saturday, Dec. 15 in collaboration with One Neighborhood Engagement (ONE) and the Community Foundation of Lorain County.


Ms. Bennett, 51, has a wide-ranging background, previously working in intellectual property law and for an executive search firm in Cleveland. The Lorain native commuted to Cleveland each day for more than a decade, three hours round trip, to her job as an office manager until the executive search firm closed its offices there. A bit of divine serendipity led her to El Centro.


“I wanted to stay more in Lorain, maybe help out, be more of an asset since I was born and raised here,” she said. “It gave me an opportunity to step back, see where I am in my life, with my family, and how can I give back at this point. A friend saw the position, texted me and said ‘This would be perfect for you.’ It just happened to work out timing-wise.”


Ms. Bennett grew up just a couple of blocks from El Centro’s offices, so she had a good knowledge of the nonprofit, even though her family never needed any of its services. Her father worked at a steel plant and somehow provided for 14 children, who were raised by a stay-at-home mom. But friends and family actively took part in the programs and services offered.


“Lorain is in my blood,” she said. “I’m very passionate about Lorain. I’m very thankful to have found this position at El Centro, which does such a wonderful job with all of its services. I didn’t realize all of the services done here. I’m very proud to be a Lorainite.”


Ms. Bennett has been married for 28 years and has two grown sons, 31 and 20. She has one grandson. She is the 13th of 14 children, growing up in a strict Catholic household. While her mom is still alive, her father passed away 14 years ago. Her parents came to the Lorain area from Puerto Rico, speaking no English. Her father worked at U.S. Steel for nearly four decades.


“It was a huge sacrifice for them, especially not knowing the language,” she said. “I’m very proud of where my mom and dad came from and everything they did for us to get us where we are, all 14 of us. All of us are successful, married with kids, so I’m very proud of that as well.”


Ms. Bennett has had to acclimate to her new job quickly, as El Centro has been quite busy in the last several weeks with a number of different programs. One recent program was a holiday gift drive for an estimated 250 Latino seniors that struggle with isolation, poverty and lack of support.


An ongoing program began Dec. 1, hosting bilingual financial education classes to improve the financial literacy of El Centro clients and community members, focused on financial recovery and credit repair, along with budgeting and saving.


A third El Centro program in collaboration with Church of the Open Door in Elyria recently provided food boxes in the community for Christmas. El Centro coordinated the food drive, while church members delivered the food boxes the week before Christmas.



Copyright © 1989 to 2018 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12/26/18 20:42:26 -0800.




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