Ground Report Recognition Awards December 2012 | Part One

 To start off the New Year, Ground Report is continuing its Recognition Awards, highlighting the very best articles from December 2012. The results are in, and we have five articles that represent the highest quality journalism. Each winner receives a cash prize, and we will be recognizing the articles by posting them on the front page of Ground Report. 

The first Recognition Award goes to Shelby Merten for "One Latino Woman Makes a Difference in her Community"  posted December 5, 2012.

This article profiles a Richmond woman, originally from Peru, Elvira De La Cruz, who has for the past five years run an organization, Latinos En Richmond, to help Latino immigrants make the transition to life in the United States. The original article can be found here:


One Latino Woman Makes a Difference in her Community by Shelby Merten 

Elvira De la Cruz created her organization Latinos En Richmond to provide information and help Latinos adapt.


      The Peruvian native moved to Richmond in 2007. When she came over, she said she found it difficult to understand and learn the culture and saw a lack information out there to new immigrants.


       De la Cruz wants to help people who are in the same situation as she was and make sure they have a better experience.


      According to De la Cruz, Latinos often come to the country and don’t know aspects of the American culture. De la Cruz says there needs to be someone there to explain to people what the DMV is, where it’s located, and how to get a driver’s license, otherwise, most Latinos would not know this information.


     “People who come over here from different countries have to learn about these things,” said De la Cruz. “It’s easy for people who are from here because we understand, but we need to explain to those who are not from here.”


       De la Cruz saw the need to educate Latinos on how the U.S. system works, and provide Latinos with access to critical information, such as how the U.S. court system works.


      She created Latinos En Richmond in 2009 as a nonprofit organization to connect Latinos and teach them about American culture. Latinos En Richmond provides translation services from English to Spanish. They offer classes on domestic violence, parenting issues and court issues.


      De la Cruz said one of the biggest struggles within the Richmond Hispanic community is getting access to the right information.


      “Latinos En Richmond serves as a way to get information out to people who normally wouldn’t get it,” said Tanya Gonzalez, Manager of the Richmond City Office of Multicultural Affairs.


      Gonzalez, who has known De la Cruz for the last two to three years, also said Latinos En Richmond helps connect people and is a hub for information. She said the organization gets the word out about various programs going on in the community that people might otherwise not know about.


       Latinos En Richmond also helps leaders in the Hispanic community reach out to each other to present information on programs and services.


      “It is important to keep all these social and community workers, coordinators, entrepreneurs and business owners connected to network and to help each other reach the rest of the Hispanic population,” said Vivian Robles, Program Coordinator for Nueva Vida, a support network for Latino women with cancer.


     “She’s just a dynamic person,” said Michel Zajur, CEO of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “She helps to keep the community connected, she’s an outstanding person.”


     It’s a great social media to get people connected,” said Zajur, who’s known De la Cruz for nearly four years through the VHCC. He said he believes Latinos En Richmond will continue to grow in popularity.


    De la Cruz said it’s been a big learning process, as she runs Latinos En Richmond by herself. As of now the organization is for-profit, but for the future De la Cruz said she would like to expand and become nonprofit.