Growing up in Danbury, Moraima Gutierrez saw how dedicated nonprofit agencies could help immigrant families make the transition to their new country.
There were fewer Latino families needing assistance in the 1970s, Gutierrez said, and funding came from a a variety of sources not available today. “Now, it is a matter of more people and less resources,” said the new chair of the steering committee for the Latino Endowment Fund of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
In her new role, Gutierrez, whose “day job” is with the U.S. Small Business Administration, will pursue an agenda designed to better position the LEF to help the Hispanic agencies in regard to resources and advocacy for their mission.
“We want to make it good now, to make it better for those to come,” said the daughter of a couple who migrated to the United States from the coffee mountains of the Dominican Republic.
Gutierrez said her primary goals are to “reinvigorate” the fund itself and to “reinforce” its presence as a force in helping Latino agencies deal with the critical issues they face.
At the end of 2016, the Latino Endowment Fund’s assets exceeded $275,000. The Hartford Foundation for Giving’s total assets were about $917 million and since 1985 it had distributed 90 grants totaling $3.4 million to nonprofits supporting immigration and refugees.
The steering committee for which Gutierrez will be chairman is involved in both building the fund’s resources and participates in the decision-making when grants are made at the end of the year.
As part of the reinvigoration of the Latino Endowment Fund, which Gutierrez said has been “kind of quiet over the last couple of years,” will be strengthening its donor and membership base.
She plans to “take the show on the road,” to talk to employee resource groups at area corporations, to make Latino community groups and the public aware of LEF, and to harness the “knowledge and power that is out there.”
Gutierrez said bringing Latino leaders on board is very important because the “Latino community is very supportive of who is at the helm. She also wants to “definitely capture” the vibrancy of young Latinos. She said many are “looking to do something for their community.”
Gutierrez also plans to be proactive in an advocacy role with state and national governments. “The small agencies do not have the resources for strong advocacy work,” she said, and are fortunate to have their community represented by Yanil Teron of the Center for Latino Progress and Ingrid Alvarez-DeMarzo of the Hispanic Foundation.
Gutierrez considers herself fortunate to come into her LEF position on “the heels of what has been done.” She said the fund has given over $230,000 in grants to agencies in greater Hartford since its inception in 2003.
The recent awards include $20,000 given in 2015 to the Center for Latino Progress for an entrepreneurial program, BiCiCo, and a similar amount last year to the Center for Children’s Advocacy to provide information and to train staff to work with pro bono attorneys to help undocumented minors.
Gutierrez also said she is happy with the timing of her elevation to the chairmanship. “This is coming at the best time ever for me to take over,” she noted.
One positive, she cited, was the appointment of Jay Williams as president of the Hartford Foundation. Williams, who served as assistant to U.S. Secretary of Commerce for economic development, succeeds former Board Chair Yvette Melendez, who acted as interim president following the planned retirement of Linda J. Kelly who served as president for over 11 years.
Gutierrez also was heartened by the May visit and speech by Alberto Ibargüen, president of the Knight Foundation. Ibargüen announced a $50,000 matching grant to the Latino Endowment Fund. She said some of this grant will serve as “seed money” for the LEF membership drive.
Greater Hartford is relatively small and HFPG leaders knew Gutierrez from her work as assistant district director for economic media’s relations at the Connecticut District Office of the United States Small Business Administration (SBA).
At SBA, Gutierrez, who has a master’s degree in business management from the University of Saint Joseph, directed the federal agency services and funds to help Connecticut business owners, including many Latinos, to grow and expand their businesses.
In addition, Gutierrez previously was station manager for Telemundo and a public information officer for the Connecticut General Assembly.
Gutierrez said she also came to know the Hartford Foundation by attending what she saw as “very good forums.”
In 2016, Gutierrez decided to become an active member of the Hartford Foundation, a move that was partly due to outreach by the past president and board members, she recalled.
For Gutierrez, helping the community is both a personal and professional commitment. “We are very much vested in the Hartford area,” she said. .
“We (Latinos) are not leaving Connecticut,” Gutierrez said. “There is a shared vision, a community vision and we look out for each other,” she said. “We are here to stay to grow.”