Forum Focuses On Services For Hispanics

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As the Spanish-speaking population of Gila County continues to grow, increasing numbers of Rim country residents live in an unfamiliar world where even checking out a library book is intimidating.

Vice Mayor Judy Buettner, along with Terry Morris, director of the Payson Public Library and Blanche Oakland, of the Payson Unified School District, are sponsoring an informational program for Spanish-speaking residents called, "The Latino Support Forum," from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at the Payson Public Library.

According to Buettner, The Latino Support Forum draws 17 government agencies and organizations together to present the local and government services available to the non-English speaking Hispanic community.

Each agency is allowed three minutes to describe their offerings. Among the presenters are Payson Parks and Recreation, Department of Economic Security, Time Out Shelter, law enforcement and fire departments, churches, Payson Regional Medical Center, Rim Country Literacy, the library and many others.

"We want them to understand that this is an opportunity to learn what's available in town," said Buettner. "I don't think many of them know the opportunities here."

Buettner recalled an experience, which served as the brain child for the forum, she had with Morris and Oakland.

"I was at a meeting and Blanche (Oakland) had brought a Hispanic lady," said Buettner. "She was telling us that the Spanish-speaking women don't know what's going on in town, and they feel intimated that they don't speak English."

Morris concurred, and has found that many people in the Hispanic community don't know about the library's Spanish-only computer with Internet connection, and book collection.

"We are finding that we are getting more Hispanics into the library," said Morris. "If you encourage them to participate, they will."

Buettner and Morris said translators and Spanish-speaking presenters will be available to answer questions and hand out bilingual material after the program.

"I have been truly amazed at the response," said Buettner. "I haven't been turned down once."

Childcare and light refreshments are also provided. The library is located at 328 N. McLane Road. For more information, contact Blanche Oakland at (928) 978-1479 or the Payson Public Library at (928) 474-9260.

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