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Demand for services provided by the Immigrants’ Assistance Center of New Bedford has never been so high, according to the center’s executive director Helena Hughes.

“In the past year, we have seen a drastic increase in the need for our services,” Hughes told the crowd gathered at the center’s Spring Fundraiser held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on March 30.

“We are serving 9,000 clients [per year], that’s an increase of 35 percent,” she said. “We are a small organization, with very limited resources and a small budget. In order to continue to provide these critical services, we need your support.”

Founded in 1971 by members of the local Portuguese community, the center has been helping area immigrants overcome language, cultural and economic barriers since then.

This story first appeared in OJornal on April 6th, 2018 – HERE

“There are many people in the city who can say, ‘I made it in America because of what the Immigrants’ Assistance Center did for me’… That’s a big gift,” Mayor Jon Mitchell told the crowd.

The Portuguese Consul in New Bedford said she could not have more respect or admiration for the work done by the center.

“For every dollar that is given, there are many, many hours of sacrifice and dedication that are priceless,” Consul Shelley Pires said. “I could not be more in awe of the variety of services that are rendered and the range of people that are helped… the thing that makes me more proud of the work done by the center is the fact that their roots are linked to the Portuguese community, but they didn’t stop there. They are a broad range organization, open to any community, and engaged with all the needs of any immigrant.”

Cong. Bill Keating said the issues and challenges facing immigrants have not been this serious in years.

“Our nation is built by immigrants and the needs are so grave right now,” he said. “This is an expanding landscape. The responsibilities have increased, the needs have gotten greater and the resources have to somehow keep up with that. So, thank you for being here.”

For State Representative António F.D. Cabral, the center is truly an empowering institution.

“The mission of the organization is not to be a handout to anyone; it’s actually to help achieve the American dream… to navigate through the process, be successful and integrate successfully and be a productive member of this community,” he said.

He praised the center’s staff for truly understanding the community’s needs.

“We might have come in different ships, but we’re all in the same boat today,” he said.

During the event, Hughes recognized former First Lady of New Bedford Laurie Bullard for her “relentless advocacy and unwavering devotion” to the center’s cause.

“Because we are so busy providing the services we don’t necessarily have the time to raise the funds to support our expanding programs,” Hughes said. “In the midst of chaos, God sent us an angel named Laurie Bullard. Laurie saw a challenge and jumped in with both feet to help like no one has helped us before. In a short time, as a volunteer, she has helped us find new resources for funding.”

Hughes then presented Bullard with the first Laurie Bullard Award. The next time the award will be given out will be at the center’s 50th anniversary.

“Every five years, when we celebrate our anniversary, we are going to be giving the Laurie Bullard Award,” Hughes said.

Taking the podium, Bullard dedicated the award to all those “who cared, donated and continue to donate” to the center.

“The Immigrants’ Assistance Center is extremely important to this city built on immigrants,” she said. “I don’t deserve this by myself. I have to thank every other person I have reached out to help the center. So, I will accept this on behalf of everyone.”

Hughes expects the event to raise about $40,000 for the center.

″$24,500 in sponsorships and approximately 10,000 in ticket sales, but we are still receiving donations,” she said. “The total figure will be close to $40,000.”

This story first appeared in OJornal on April 6th, 2018 – HERE