Hispanic Unity of Florida, Inc.

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Hispanic Unity of Florida, Inc.
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Who We Are:
Since our founding in 1982, Hispanic Unity of Florida (HUF) has been the refuge for almost 500,000 clients seeking skills, resources, a helping hand or support as they learn to navigate their country of choice. Then as now, our mission of “Empowering Hispanics and other members of the community to lead productive lives” means that we instill the tools for self-sufficiency for generations of newcomers.

Across our 30 year history, having touched the lives of almost a half-million clients, we have earned recognition in two areas, for which we are proud: we are the “go to” agency when new faces arrive on America’s shores seeking a better life, and we are regarded as the agency that serves the county’s diverse, multi-cultural and multi-lingual population – no matter from where they hail. We provide guidance, skills, resources, and help our clients connect, adjust and acculturate within the community. We serve clients in one of the nation’s most diverse counties. And we help 25,000 families each year.

HUF today is comprised of a 20 person board of directors and 100 staff. We were born in 14 countries, including the US, Asia, South and Central America and the Caribbean. Staff, management and board mirror the community’s diversity. We are primarily foreign born or first generation American – we have profound empathy for our clients, having lived the same immigrant experience. Of those we serve who are not recent immigrants, we understand the struggle of getting ahead. We all have in common our quest of the American Dream.

Initially catering to a primarily Hispanic clientele, our clients now come from all continents and 25 countries. Our 19 services, fitting into health, education, financial/economic, employment and civic engagement/citizenship categories, are conducted in three languages and keep pace with ever-changing needs of our immigrant and American-born clients.

Hispanic Unity helps children and families lead healthy, safe and productive lives, supporting those who might otherwise not be served. We have been making a difference in Broward County – our clients learn to navigate their lives in English and stand on their feet: finding work, sending their children to school, filing their taxes, applying for US citizenship, accessing the healthcare system, and volunteering and giving back to our community.

Our agency’s sustainability is of uppermost importance. We have diversity of funding sources, where fully 90% of revenue goes into programs, ownership of campus buildings and driven by values of transparency and accountability.

HUF is strengthened by strategic partnerships with reliable community collaborators (CBOs, governments, health entities, universities, committed volunteers, benefactors, businesses). We believe in fairness, equity and equality for everyone, and have made the conquering of health disparities a priority. We help our clients gain access to healthcare, connect to nutritious meals, and manage diseases that adversely impact people of color. By keeping individuals and families healthy, one client at a time, we keep the community healthy.

What we do:
HUF empowers our clients to lead productive lives by providing the skills, tools and resources to help them – as well as - help them to help themselves. Clients find programs for building their skills, finding jobs, learning English and getting their kids off to a sound start in school. They find skilled, experienced, certified and caring staffers. HUF enriches and transforms lives, one life at a time, and collectively, we move the community forward in health, education and prosperity.

Looking at Hispanic Unity strictly by the numbers, we operate 19 programs from 16 sites around the county, helping 25,000 people each year, who hail from 25 countries. HUF conducts programs in English, Spanish, Haitian-Creole and, at times, Portuguese. We have touched and transformed almost 500,000 lives in the past 30 years, of which 75% are people of color.

In the last year we:
• Taught English to 1,500 people.
• Placed $5.5 million of tax refunds and earned income tax credits in the in the pockets of 4,000 clients and instructed 280 on how to maximize their finances.
• Assisted 450 in employment and career exploration.
• Educated 750 preschoolers and at risk adolescents.
• Connected 1,300 people to nutritious food and healthcare access, worked with 7,600 clients needing basic assistance (housing, utilities) as well as, information and referrals
• Prepared 1,300 for citizenship exams, helped with 650 Naturalization Applications, and counseled 200 on immigration issues.

In the realm of health care, we:
• Counseled, tested and referred over 600 clients at risk for HIV.
• Assisted 360 clients in gaining access to healthcare.
• Worked daily with more than 125 seniors in keeping them physically and mentally healthy.
• Decreased disparities for 1,500 uninsured with heart disease, diabetes and cancer – illnesses linked to Hispanics, African Americans and people of color.

HUF is now touching the lives of 300 families/year in a manner that is more permanent and lasting, as a Center for Working Families site (Annie E. Casey model). HUF coaches clients on succeeding at their life-plan, making lifestyle changes and “bundles” services to suit individual needs in pertinent areas, intertwining health, education, job preparedness/employment, financial planning.

Beyond statistics, each “number” is a face, a family, a story arriving at HUF: They come for jobs, for English classes, for after-school care, for help with legal issues or a pathway to citizenship … a foothold towards earning a better life for themselves and their families. They leave with these services and something more: a mentor, renewed motivation, the knowledge they can make it. These acts of HOPE are repeated at our door 25,000 times every year.

Our story:
HUF’s story is as compelling as America’s story. It is the immigrant story, and the story of the American Dream.

HUF’s Founders departed from their homelands in the mid-20th century – from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia – for lives of promise and opportunity, the same dreams sought by previous generations. {Today’s board members mirror our richly diverse community –they are descendants of previous immigrant waves or brought here on slave ships from Europe and Africa as well as, Latin America and the Caribbean.}

The early founders were confronted by a new language and unfamiliar culture, employment and childcare worries, transportation challenges, and overall fear and distrust… assimilation roadblocks to their chosen country abounded.

They learned English at night school, worked several jobs to provide food and shelter for their children. By the early 1980s, with enough stability to help new immigrants struggling under the same conditions, the Founders – attorneys, financial professionals, a city commissioner, began laying the groundwork for HUF. The growth trends were apparent even then; Broward’s landscape was increasingly populated by Hispanic immigrants, struggling to make a life for themselves and their families. In 1970, Broward’s Hispanic population numbered 15,000. By 2000, that number grew to over 271,000. By 2010, Hispanics represented 25% of Broward County’s population, with 437,595 (US Census).

The Founders’ vision was to create a safe, nurturing landing spot where immigrants, Latin or otherwise, who similarly pulled up roots to build a new life, could gain language, necessary skills, a sense of community and map for their futures. Initially situated in loaned Ft. Lauderdale space, the first clients were served with “acculturation, employment and interpretation” programs. In its first decade, community funds launched additional programs. The second decade saw revenue, programs and staffing triple.

In this third decade, proliferation of non-Hispanic clientele changed staff’s required language skills, increased healthcare programs, strategic partnerships, financial literacy and citizenship classes and the purchase/renovation of a second building to accommodate growing client needs. [Today, 40% of those we serve are non-Hispanic.]

The 500,000 clients served over the past 30 years are moms and dads pursuing a better job, searching for ways to feed their families, and interested in completing their technical or university degrees or starting a business. They are children enrolled in public school turning mediocre grades into academic scholarships. They are formerly homeless families who bunked with relatives, now putting down payments on a home. They are patients now able to make great strides in controlling diabetes and hypertension. They are your grocer, your real estate agent, the kid next to you at soccer practice. The courage and success of our clients energizes our staff’s commitment to HUF’s mission every day.

Hispanic Unity has earned the community’s trust. And has become the consummate COMMUNITY based organization, with close ties and responsiveness to those it serves, as well as the community at large.


Our Contact information and Media Point Person:

Josie Bacallao (Media Contact and “face” of the agency)
5840 Johnson Street
Hollywood, FL 33021
954-964-8884 (Main number)
954-683-2028 (Bacallao cell number)


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