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Big Day Celebrated for Route One and Area Immigrants

New facilities dedicated in Mount Vernon.

Since they moved to Mount Vernon a few years ago, Lilly and David Pierce have been serving the community. They started helping out at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, then jumped in when Father Jesus started organizing a group called Progreso Hispano, because they believe that there are not enough Anglo supporters for the Hispanic community.

As Progreso Hispano grew, and moved from temporary quarters into the brand new space on Mohawk Lane, the Pierces continued to help. Starting next month, Lilly Pierce will be teaching classes at Progreso Hispano, while David will serve as volunteer photographer.

They were both at the dedication ceremony of Progreso Hispano's new facilities last weekend, along with executive director Isis Castro and Sam McTyre, chairman of the board of directors. Castro and McTyre are hoping that more people will answer their call for volunteers — volunteers to teach English as a Second Language, to teach citizenship classes and to help immigrants complete citizenship papers.

Castro and McTyre welcomed elected officials and members of the community. McTyre said that his job as chairman is to make sure that the organization gets set up correctly and starts relating to the community.

He acknowledged the many partnerships that have already been formed with the community. "We're glad to be … empowering the Hispanic community," McTyre said.

He said he was encouraged, and added, "So much has been done in such a short period of time."

Much of that he attributed to Castro, who he said is the nerve center.

"I can't believe how much energy she has," said McTyre.

CASTRO GREETED the crowd and thanked to God for "giving us this wonderful opportunity." She acknowledged those who have already helped, including the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

"Without the support of the Board of Supervisors, we wouldn't have this [facility]," said Castro.

Representing the Board at the dedication was Gerry Connolly (D-Providence), currently running for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, who spoke later. "How important the investments we choose to make are,” Connolly said. “We want to make sure that the county continues to make these investments. We're proud of the role we played in making this happen."

Castro acknowledged many of the other county agencies who helped secure the new facilities. She thanked the many volunteers, including Verdia Haywood, Pat Ryan, Dick Fallert, Leticia Gonzalez and Leah Tenorio.

Immigration Specialist Karin Yanez helped Progreso Hispano achieve the status of being one of five non-profit organizations in the United States who work through the Internet and file citizenship papers perfectly, Castro said.

She also spoke about the history of Progreso Hispano, explaining its origins at Good Shepherd Catholic Church and move to temporary quarters on Route 1. A place of their own was something they dreamed of, and now it is a reality.

"Everything you see here is donated," said Castro. "Our clients are so proud that we have a place that they save money from month to month to buy something for our place."