The Community Foundation of St. Joseph County has named La Casa de Amistad winner of its 2021 Leighton Award for Nonprofit Excellence. The award recognizes La Casa de Amistad for its exemplary work as the region’s only comprehensive, full-service bilingual community center serving the Latino community.
La Casa de Amistad was established in 1973 in response to the needs of teenagers from migrant farmworker families on South Bend’s West side. Since then, it has grown exponentially, providing more than 1,000 families each year with services that include programming for children from preschool through high school, a food pantry, social services and referrals, English language classes, legal support, technology training, and advocacy. Today, approximately 10% of St. Joseph County residents identify as Latinx; some 17,000 Latinos live in South Bend. For these community members, La Casa de Amistad is a welcoming, empowering, and highly trusted resource.
The Leighton Award Committee celebrates La Casa de Amistad’s successful recent capital campaign, El Sueño. This $3.25 million campaign has made it possible for the organization to renovate and move into its new home on South Bend’s southern edge, which is easily accessible by public transportation and includes ample parking for clients. La Casa de Amistad’s previous home on Meade Street had approximately 8,000 square feet; the new building has more than 40,000 square feet, which has allowed the organization to dramatically increase its services, programming, and dreams for the future.
The Leighton Award Committee was especially impressed with La Casa de Amistad’s expertise in building strong, collaborative partnerships. Dozens of local, regional, and national organizations—schools, businesses, arts organizations, government entities, and more—regularly seek out La Casa’s guidance to better understand, communicate with, and serve the Latino community. Programs that La Casa has developed have served as models for other regional and national organizations, including its South Bend ID program and its recent onsite COVID-19 vaccination program, conducted in partnership with the Army National Guard, FEMA, and the Indiana State Department of Health.
As the 2021 Leighton Award winner, La Casa de Amistad receives a $150,000 endowment challenge grant and must raise $150,000 in matching funds. The resulting $300,000 will be added to La Casa de Amistad’s endowed fund with the Community Foundation, providing additional annual resources to support the organization’s mission and purposes. The organization also receives an additional $25,000 to help cover the costs of any fundraising and communications associated with the match.
Also, the Community Foundation named two Special Recognition winners as part of its Leighton Award process, each of which will receive an award of $10,000. Special Recognition awards are intended to encourage organizations that are pursuing higher degrees of excellence, recognizing inspiring examples of service and performance. The Community Foundation’s first 2021 Special Recognition Award goes to Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Joseph County, whose promising new STRIVE Program builds on its strong foundations as a provider of supplemental education to address the learning loss suffered by local students during the COVID-19 crisis. The Foundation’s second 2021 Special Recognition Award goes to St. Margaret’s House, honoring the organization’s 30-year commitment to caring for women in our community with staff trained in trauma-centered care and the principles of restorative justice.
You can make a gift to help La Casa de Amistad make its matching goal for this award at https://cfsjc.org/for-donors/give-now/ Choose “La Casa de Amistad: Leighton Award Match” under the “Gift Type” menu.
Established by Judd and Mary Lou Leighton and the Leighton-Oare Foundation in 1999, the Leighton Award encourages all of the community’s nonprofit organizations to pursue excellence at every level of their operations. Previous winners of this award include LOGAN (2000); Center for the Homeless (2001); South Bend Heritage Foundation (2002); REAL Services (2003); St. Joseph Health Center at Chapin Street (2004); Goodwill Industries of Michiana (2005); Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc. (2006); South Bend Civic Theatre (2007), the YWCA of St. Joseph County (2008), the St. Joseph County Public Library (2009), the Women’s Care Center (2010), Family & Children’s Center (2011), St. Margaret’s House (2012), the Center for History (2013), the Fischoff National Chamber Music Association (2014), Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County (2015), the CASIE Center (2017), and the South Bend Symphony Orchestra (2019). In 2015, the Leighton Award moved to a biennial process, rather than an annual process, and increased the amount of the award provided. The next Leighton Award process will take place in August 2023.