La Casa de Amistad receives $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - La Casa de Amistad Executive Director Juan Constantino was working at his desk when he received an email from the Lilly Endowment. 

"It went from excitement, to tears of emotion and to running to our youth team and letting them know and calling our board of directors. Just envisioning how transformational this gift is going to be for our kids, our families, for the organization long term and we couldn’t be more happier about the result," Constantino said.

La Casa de Amistad has been awarded a $1 million grant by the Lilly Endowment to strengthen their youth programs, making it the largest grant in the organization’s history.

Lilly Endowment’s Strengthening Youth Programs in Indiana initiative aims to assist youth organizations across the state to improve their capacity through academic, physical and social wellbeing of the children.

Constantino looked at the requirements and realized La Casa de Amistad qualified and applied. But he never thought it would result in a $1 million grant.

He says the grant will be used to purchase more transportation, invest in classroom technology, hire more staff and build a playground with a three-year timeframe.

"What better way to invest it than into our youth? Our future lawyers, engineers, doctors, teachers, neighbors and friends, future leaders and maybe future mayor here in the city and throughout our region," he said. "We want to invest in our students, we want to have the spaces appropriate for them, the technology they need and everything else. This million-dollar investment is truly an investment that will pay dividends down the road."

Constantino says it's the perfect alignment with Hispanic Heritage Month finally here and the organization approaching its 50-year anniversary.

"There’s no better time to receive this than Hispanic Heritage Month. A time for us to honor and recognize as the contributions and commitments of the Hispanic and Latino community. And as we approach our 50-year anniversary later this year on October 17th, it couldn’t have been a better time to receive this gift."

He says to celebrate the grant, they will have a Hispanic Heritage Month community celebration this Thursday. The event, which will feature traditional dancers and music from 5-8 p.m., is free and open to the public.

In two weeks, the organization will be celebrating a big milestone: 50 years in the community. Constantino says they will be hosting a gala on the 17th to raise money for organization. With 50 years down, Constantino says he can’t wait for the next 50 to come.

"For the next fifty years, there’s a big vision for the organization to continue to develop and grow with the community and just react as we have been to the sign of the times. As our community continues to grow, as those needs continue to adapt, the organization will pivot alongside our community to meet the needs that they need, whatever that may be."

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