Friday, April 13, 2007

Creation of cultural center gains steam


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Joseph Young, shown here at a meeting in February with his 1-month-old son Matthew, said Wednesday that breaking down racial and cultural boundaries would be better served by creating a cultural center that welcomes all people, rather than just one group. Photo by David N. Seelig

What began as just an idea last fall is moving steadily towards becoming a reality.

The idea—to establish a Blaine County cultural center to help meet the needs of the area's Hispanic community and other immigrants—is the brainchild of a diverse group of citizens and community agencies that have been meeting on a monthly basis since December.

During their most recent meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the group gathered in the upstairs meeting room of the Old County Courthouse in Hailey to discuss the creation of a mission statement and a possible name for the center.

Facilitating the discussion was Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael.

Deciding just what the mission of the cultural center should be occupied most of the roughly hour-and-a-half-long meeting.

Should it be focused more on addressing the needs of Blaine County's growing Hispanic community, or should it extend beyond that to consider the needs of all in the community?

Perhaps establish a multicultural center that isn't focused on just one community of people, but is concerned for the well-being of all?

As one, the group resoundingly affirmed that the center should be as inclusive as possible.

"I like that basic multicultural approach," said Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen, who attended the meeting April 11, and has been a participant at many of the previous meetings.

When Serbian immigrants fled the Balkans War in the 1990s, many of them arrived in the Magic Valley area, Schoen said. Their transition to living in the Magic Valley area was made smoother because people living there sent out a call seeking translators and other people who could provide necessary services, he said.

This is just one example of why the needs of all immigrants should be addressed by a multicultural center, Schoen said.

"This would be the place for those people to go," he said.

A draft document circulated during the meeting spells out the direction the group is headed on creating a mission for the cultural center.

Under the goals section, providing information and referral services for anyone needing help with medical, employment, immigration, educational, housing and sustenance needs is listed.

Being all-inclusive and welcoming to everyone is key to breaking down racial and cultural boundaries in Blaine County, said Joseph Young, who has been an active participant in the discussions since the beginning.

"Merging is what we should be aspiring to," Young said.

This message found support throughout the entire crowd, including Ruben Rivera.

"It's got to be appealing to everyone," Rivera said.

Towards the end of the meeting, the group formed a smaller 11-person subcommittee that will take the advice gathered from the session and come up with several alternative mission statements for the entire group to vote on.

The group's next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 16.




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