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NEW BEDFORD — The Immigrants’ Assistance Center Summer Fundraiser at the Madeiran Heritage Museum raised about $23,000 to provide crucial services to local immigrant families.

The center’s executive director, Helena da Silva Hughes, said the funds will be used to educate immigrant families about their rights, help them prepare for emergencies and guide them on the path to citizenship.

“We sold close to 200 tickets for this event,” said Hughes. “We could not have asked for better weather, as we are hopeful for another successful event because, unfortunately, our number of clients has increased by 30 percent.”

According to Hughes, Trump’s immigrant policies have caused fear and insecurity in the immigrant population, resulting in the continued increase in demand for the center’s services.

Established in 1971 by members of the local Portuguese community in New Bedford, the center has helped immigrants overcome language, cultural and economic barriers on their way to integration into the American way of life. Currently, the center is serving about 9,000 clients per year.

Cong. William Keating pointed out the significance of the event.

“This is a most important time for all of us to come together, and I think all of us can agree, that this is the most important time for this great cause — it is needed now, more that it ever has been… So, keep up the work and what you are doing,” he said.

Rep. António F.D. Cabral praised the work of the center as an empowering institution and its staff and board of directors.

“I don’t have to tell you how I feel about these issues because you are very familiar with that — they are dear to my heart and I will fight every day for those issues that are important,” he said. “I need to recognize the members of the board that serve, year after year, without pay. It’s the kind of work that gets forgotten, but it’s important work.”

Thanks to a three-year grant from The Henry Crapo Foundation, the IAC recently hired Kristin Morrissey as Director of Development.

“I have been doing a lot of grant writing and applying for bigger, larger grants that we have in the past,” she explained about seeking grants that are more nationally focused. “A lot of organizations are concerned about immigration right now because of the human element, most particularly, parents and families that are being affected.”

Natasha Pereira, Business Development Manager for United Health Care, a platinum sponsor of the event, said she could personally vouch for the all of the work the center does.

“Sometimes I make their office my office, and I get to see the work that they do,” she said. “They are the experts and they know exactly what they are doing… United Health Care would like to thank you Helena and your staff for the commitment you have shown to those you serve on a daily basis, who value your work and appreciate our partnership.”

Other sponsors of the event included Fallon Health Care, BayCoast Bank, Southcoast Health, BankFive, and Saraiva Enterprises.

During the event, two staff members were recognized for their service to the center — Senior Coordinator Lucy Oliveira and Case Manager Philomene Tavares, who have been working there for 16 and 18 years, respectively.

This story first appeared in OJornal / Fall River Herald on Aug 17, 2018 – HERE