By Claudia J. Gonzalez
Photo By: Claudia J. Gonzalez
Merced, Calif.— Twelve year old Edith Hernandez woke up at 4 a.m. last Sunday to volunteer at the 3rd Annual Resource Fair in South Merced, an event that drew over 300 people.
Along with her twin sister, Jackie, and countless other youth volunteers, the group worked tirelessly to ensure the fair was a success.
“I am exhausted, but I am happy to be here helping my community,” said the middle schooler as she looked after the face painting booth, one of the many activity stations for kids.
The event, hosted by the Guadalupano Youth Society of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, was created to provide South Merced residents with information they may not access to otherwise.
“We are holding this fair annually to bring more resources into the area,” said organizer Maria Vega, 28. “It often goes underserved and that is unacceptable.”
Vega said that although Latinos make up the majority of the city’s residents, Spanish speakers often have difficulty accessing resources and information in their primary language.
This was not the case on Sunday, as all of the over thirty agencies, organizations and vendors present had bilingual staff on hand.
Covered California provided information and helped people enroll for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The Independent Redistricting Advisory Committee of the City of Merced was in attendance informing residents about the new election district lines and urging them to draw and submit their own maps. Merced County Mental Health and Valley Crisis Center both educated attendees regarding the services they offer, while BloodSource encouraged people to donate blood in order to save lives.
“Sometimes I go places and seek information, but they can’t understand me,” said Jose Luis Pacheco, 42, a long time resident of South Merced. “I’m glad many of the workers here spoke Spanish and were able to answer my questions.”
Karina Hernandez-Cesena, 21, explained that since Sacred Heart sponsored the fair, “more people are likely to stop by. This is a really secure place for immigrant families.”
Eugene Drummond, 50, a Community Liaison with the Merced Police Department, said his agency joined the fair because their primary role is to serve the community. He added that unfortunately, people “view police as only being present when there is a problem.”
“But that’s a misconception. We are here 365 days, 24/7, “ continued Drummond. “We want the Latino community and the entire city to know that.”
Established in 2010, the Guadalupano Youth Society has around 20 active members, ranging from age 8 to young adult. The youth meet often to plan fundraisers and events that will benefit their community.
Youth organizers took pride in the turnout of the event, which wrapped up with live performance and raffles.
“I’m already excited for next year,” said Hernandez as she painted her friend’s face.
For more information about the Guadalupano Youth Society, contact Maria Vega at 209-628-2487 or attend a meeting every first Tuesday of the month at Sacred Heart Church.