Brabriana Zamudio, 2, plays with chalk at La Casa Hogar. Photos by Sara Gettys.
On the outside, La Casa Hogar looks like a typical family home. But within its walls is a community of women whose lives have been forever changed.
Yakima resident and Spanish radio talk show host Ninfa R. Guttierez has always had a huge heart for women — particularly immigrant women facing challenges in the U.S. Guttierez immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was 8 and was able to learn English at a young age. She wanted to eliminate that barrier for women who were older — to whom the language was naturally more difficult to learn.
“I saw the potential they had — if only they could recognize it themselves,” she says.
In 1994, she went to the board of the Yakima Interfaith Coalition and founder Patty Houts Hussey, seeking funding to begin building her dream: La Casa Hogar Gloria de Martinez, a school for immigrant women to take English classes.
Gloria de Martinez was a Puerto Rican woman who taught in the Yakima School District. She was a strong proponent for bilingual education and an inspiration to Guttierez, who was one of her students. In 1992, after a long battle with cancer, de Martinez died. Guttierez wanted to name the school in her honor.
Her proposal was accepted, which meant the next task was finding a place to house the school.
“It had to be a house,” Guttierez says.
So they sought out Carole Folsom-Hill, a social worker who lived in the heart of downtown Yakima, with hopes she’d be able to point them in the right direction.
Folsom-Hill, now 66, suggested a large house on Sixth Street that had been vacant for some time. Its size and location were ideal.
In a matter of a few phone calls they were granted a nominal rental fee, and within a year, La Casa Hogar Gloria de Martinez was born. Today, it’s simply called La Casa Hogar; however, Gloria de Martinez’ name still graces the front of the building.
Guttierez took on the role of executive director for about a year and a half, leaving when she disagreed with the YIF about the development of an emergency program that would serve men at La Casa Hogar. But Guttierez says she’s happy with the direction the organization has taken since then.
The position was then held by several different women before finding its mainstay: In 1999, the board once again approached Folsom-Hill. But this time to fill the shoes of executive director.
At the time, she was a case manager at the New Hope Clinic, where she counseled people living with HIV/AIDS. And even though she wasn’t bilingual, she worked predominately with the Hispanic community.
Since she couldn’t speak Spanish well, Folsom-Hill declined the position with La Casa Hogar, offering instead to help find the right candidate. But eventually she had a change of heart, decided she was ready for a challenge, and accepted the post.
Thirteen years later, she still holds the position.
“I love working here,” she says. “For me, it’s home — (it has) filled the hole in my heart.” Folsom-Hill’s passion for both the program and the women is evident in her dedication: This is the longest she’s ever held a position.
The students primarily come from the Mexican states of Jalisco and Michoacan, usually following their families. But when they arrive, they often feel inept due to their inability to speak English. La Casa Hogar is changing that.
“You see this change in their demeanor over the years,” says Folsom-Hill.
The school offers five levels of English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, supported by Yakima Valley Community College, as well as pre-GED courses, which are supported by Heritage University. Both colleges provide the instructors.
With a 98 percent retention rate, La Casa Hogar is the only remaining ESL outstation for YVCC.
La Casa Hogar also offers computer literacy courses, a driving school, parenting education and citizenship classes.
Over the years, however, the school has endured some changes.
Soon after opening their doors, Guttierez and YIF realized that with women usually come children. So they began to provide childcare. Over the years that program has evolved, and in 2008 they recieved a community foundation grant that allowed them to begin operating as an early learning center.
“It’s a pretty cool program,” says Folsom-Hill. “We use the same curriculum as Head Start and the Yakima School District.”
Children age 2-5 attend the preschool while their mothers are in class. “The kids love it. They call it their ‘esculita,’” she says. Esculita means school in Spanish.
Three of the six women currently employed at La Casa Hogar are former students. Luz Monroy, 48, is one of them.
In the winter of 2001, Monroy took her first English class. With determination to learn more, she signed up for the pre-GED course the following quarter.
“I didn’t know what GED meant at the time,” she says. But it was then that the staff noticed her impeccable math skills.
Unaware that Monroy had earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo, they asked her to begin teaching math.
“Almost all of the women feel like they are poor in math,” says Folsom-Hill, who learned of Monroy’s college education soon after.
Monroy didn’t stop there. She continued to take classes, and with the support of Folsom-Hill, eventually became the bookkeeper. Today, Monroy is La Casa Hogar’s program director.
“I came with the need of learning English,” she says, “(but) I learned how to work with people.”
La Casa Hogar’s annual budget, which is approximately $228,000, is supported by grants and fundraising.
“We are grant-dependent,” says Folsom-Hill. “We believe in collaboration and partnerships.”
In 2003, La Casa Hogar received a Bill and Melinda Gates grant worth $62,000 for technology.
“It is believed that half our population might be left behind because of no technology,” she says. The grant helped fund both the new computers and the necessary training. “Everybody learned how to use the computers.”
Today, over half of the program is funded by local faith communities and the United Way of Yakima, with the goal to empower women to achieve their dreams.
“We include anybody who wants to be here … we meet them where they are,” says Folsom-Hill. And for those who’ve been in the program, “They have friendships, know they’re cared about and begin to blossom.”
Students at La Casa Hogar and the student volunteers from the Newman Center at the University of Washington eat lunch together after a morning of class.
La Casa Hogar
Martha Chavez attaches tissue paper to a pot during a class.
Martha Chavez, in blue and white stripes, and classmates share a laugh during a language class.
From left, Maria Aguilar and Sandra Virrueta play patients talking to "nurse" Monica Kim, center, during a doctor's office scenario in a lanugage class.
MariaElena Ramirez takes some salad during a luncheon event.
Angelica Zepeda was once a student and is now one of La Casa Hogar's employees.
Yakima Magazine's cover art was done by local artist, Gloria Gonzales Garcia.
It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday and also the first weekend of the Farmers’ Market. Maybe it’s the mom in me, but this weekend also seems to signify sunshine and flowers and the end of the school year – it’s a feel-good time of year. So I’ve vowed to do away with housework and chores this weekend, for some fun with my own mom and my son, Jax.
The Art Issue of Yakima Magazine comes out tomorrow, which makes for a great start to this weekend. Local artist, Gloria Gonzales Garcia, gives us a glimpse of the Farmer’s Market in an oil color she created as cover art. The magazine is filled with everything from Nate Sabari’s Woodwork, to 89-year-old local artist, Delma Tayer’s keys to a long life.
If you’re looking for some fun stuff to do with mom this weekend, you might consider Yakima Herald’s Indulge Event for Women. It takes place this Friday night, with everything from dinner and drinks, to fashion, shopping, dancing and fun. Tickets are still available by calling 509-248-1215. Or if you’re up for some big laughs with mom, “Dixie’s Tupperware Party” has returned to the Capitol Theatre this weekend. For tickets, call 509-853-2787.
But if you’re short on time, you might just grab a plant for mom at the Yakima Area Arboretum Plant Sale. The sale runs this Friday from 3-7pm and Saturday from 9am-1m.
It seems there’s plenty of fun stuff to keep us busy. Have a lovely Mother’s Day weekend!
Tortilla and Red keep an eye on other dogs taking part in the Winedoggies Mutt Mixer Tweet-Up last year. Photo by TJ Mullinax.
Sip and stroll…with your pooch!
Yakima Valley Pet Rescue’s Canine and Wine Walk will be held this Sunday at Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn in Zillah. In its fifth year, the event helps raise funds for homeless and neglected dogs and cats around the Yakima Valley.
The event begins at 11am at Cherry Wood, where you’ll receive a map with a clearly marked route. From there, you and your pooch will stop at select wineries for samples of both wine…and doggie treats. They’ll also have fresh water for your canine companion. You can choose to join in the fun for all, or part of the walk.
A $10 donation is appreciated. And for an additional donation, you’ll get lunch at Cultura Winery.
If you’ve got a furry friend that goes everywhere with you, you might want to check out Wine Doggies – a website with dog-friendly attractions. But no doubt, they’re going to love the Canine & Wine Walk.
Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast & Barn
3271 Roza Drive
When I came across Dottie Angel’s scrappy chandelier, I could not believe its cuteness. I knew I had to make one. So I’ll take the credit for crafting it, but Dottie definitely takes the cake for the idea.
It’s called a scrappy chandelier because it’s made out of scraps – both fabric and paper. You simply take an old lamp shade and remove the shade, so that it’s down to the frame. Heat up your handy dandy glue gun, cut your fabric into strips, wrap and glue. I used four different pieces of fabric, and honestly, paid little attention to detail. I actually prefer the look of the loose strings and messy edges – adds some character.
Now it’s time to choose your paper scraps. I used a wide assortment of scrapbook paper, but prefer the double-sided paper. If it’s one-sided, you have to glue another pattern to the back of your shape. I used both, which was time consuming, but well worth it. Next, I cut my scraps into various sizes of circles and squares. And then using a hole-punch I made a hole at the top and bottom of each shape. I used embroidery thread to tie the pieces together and then hang them from the frame. The cute little clip-on birds came from Michael’s Craft Store, but you could use fake birds or butterflies as well.
Hanging it was the hardest part, but only because I have vaulted ceilings. Using hemp string, I hung it above an old wing back chair, and I must say, I’m quite happy with it.
Indulge - The Event for Women
Okay ladies, you seriously do not want to miss this event. It’s going to be a spectacular night!
First and foremost, we have oodles of vendors this year! And well, we ladies love to get our shop on!
But that’s just the beginning – a gourmet dinner will be served, there will be a fashion show, martini bars, a blackjack table, lots of wine, a photo booth, dancing to Good Vibrations Mobile DJ and um, yes, firemen! You’ll also received a complimentary swag bag filled with all kinds of goodies.
Some of the participating vendors include: Glisten Hair and Tanning, Cookie Lee Jewelry, Advocare, Ideal Jewelry, Evolve Massage and Wellness Studio, Party Lite, Nerium and many, many more.
This event always sells out, so get your tickets now. They are $45, which includes a swag bag, dinner, door prizes, an evening wear fashion show, dancing and shopping – a perfect ladies night out.
Indulge will be held at the Convention Center on the evening of Friday, May 10th, so grab your girlfriends, a new dress and Indulge!
*must be 21+ to attend.