International Center for Immigrants Faces Eviction

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April 8, 2012; Source: The New York Times

The International Center in Manhattan has fallen victim to the economic recession and will have to close by the end of the month, according to its board. The center has helped immigrants adapt to American culture for decades. The organization, which is now facing eviction, currently teaches about 1,500 immigrant students English for no cost and has provided hundreds with a home away from home.

Although the board is dissolving the nonprofit after failing to come to an agreement with the landlord, the International Center’s volunteers and staff members are fighting to find a way to hold on to what they describe as “a home, a family and a cultural hub.” The center provides a plethora of courses on subjects including literature, conversation, academic writing and cultural programs. Dr. Allen Keller, the director of a program for international war veterans at the center, states that the center’s demise would be a “terrible loss for us, for our city and our community.” He adds, “We need to be opening more centers and places like the International Center, not closing them.”

In the past week, some of the International Center’s small staff and over 1,000 volunteers have formed committees to find a new location for their services, and to raise money; their goal is to raise $100,000. The New York Times spoke with 72-year-old Sharron Davis, who teaches a class on employment in America. By the end of her 10-week course, students have made their own professional résumés and have learned how to interview and market themselves. Davis spoke about the center’s mission, saying the nonprofit was created not only to teach English, but also to help immigrants “become fully productive members of American society.”

Winfield Cooper, a volunteer active in the movement to revive the center, says they hope to continue the International Center’s programs by reincorporating in a new location with a slightly altered name. This community hub will be dearly missed in its NYC neighborhood, where it has developed a presence for about 20 years, but NPQ hopes that this story may yet have a happy ending. –Aine Creedon

  • Jan Buchler

    This is a cautionary tale indeed – and very sad. Our organization’s mission is to strengthen parenting and to prevent child abuse. We have several long-time volunteers who we consider to be solid gold. They are the life-blood of the agency, who embody the goodwill, compassion, and dedication of the community. We could not fulfill our mission without them. Some times CEOs do not take the time to get to know their volunteers and to understand the immense value of people who have devoted many years to an organization.