Junta strives to overcome cuts

Rebounding from the brink of collapse in its 40th anniversary year, Junta for Progressive Action is working on a financial plan to keep its doors open.

Eight months after Gov. M. Jodi Rell threatened to cut all state funding for Junta, nearly halving its $500,000 budget, officials for the city’s oldest Latino community organization will solicit more donations from its clients to split its finances from the state.

Junta for Progressive Action is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Daniel Carvalho
Junta for Progressive Action is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

“If we continue to grow as we are now and [the] state cuts funds two years from now,” Junta Development Director Latrina Kelly said, “we will be in a good position to stand on our own two feet.”

Last February, Rell cut all state funding for the Fair Haven-based advocacy group, but after the officials protested, rounding up dozens of people to flock to Hartford from Junta’s headquarters on Grand Avenue, the governor reinstated the $260,000 in funding for each of the next two years. The move is emblematic of Junta officials’ four-decade history of collaborating with Yale and New Haven groups to offer social services the local Latino community.

And now, five Junta officials and volunteers interviewed said, Junta’s new financial plan will help the organization to stay afloat.

Working often with Yale students to achieve their goals, Junta volunteers currently provide social services to Fair Haven, the neighborhood with the largest Latino population in the Greater New Haven region. For instance, Yale students volunteer at Junta through the Dwight Hall Summer Fellowship program, an eight-week paid fellowship for Yale students to pursue social justice projects with local organizations and leaders. And Yale Child Study Center officials gave Junta some of the Center’s federal grant money to provide a recreational afterschool program with dance and photography classes for more than 90 neighborhood residents.

Yale students and Junta workers also worked together during the immigration raids in New Haven on June 6, 2007. The Junta volunteers worked with a Yale Law School clinic to offer legal advice and representation to dozens of families who fled their homes that day, hoping to avoid agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who arrested 29 people that morning. The Yale Law School-Junta partnership started four years ago, and the two groups continue to work with Junta’s clients, most of whom are poor, on issues such as workers’ rights and divorce.

“It was a moment when terror dominated my memory,” former Junta Economic Development Director Laura Huizar LAW ’12 said.

The work Junta has completed over its 40 years, Junta Executive Director Sandra Trevino said, would not have been possible without the community of supporters. As recently as 2001, the Italianate mansion that serves as Junta’s headquarters showed signs of fire damage in the 1990s. Fair Haven activists, led by Junta’s board of directors, decided to remodel the building, donating their time to help restore the peeling paint, asking for donations and starting new programs, Trevino said.

Junta officials said they continue to grow its programs and widen its goals, leaving little time for leisure. They only celebrated their 40 years of operations with a four-hour fundraising event.

Oct. 2, about 200 Junta supporters gathered at Amarante’s Sea Cliff overlooking the ocean for the 40th anniversary fundraising event, 40 Huellas (Spanish for “40 Footprints”).

The event, Junta’s largest fundraiser to date, was a mix of salsa dancing, a silent auction and a buffet dinner, Trevino said. Huizar called it more of a party than a fundraiser. But by the end of the night, Junta officials raised over $20,000, up from $17,000 raised during last year’s event.

The money will help Junta officials with their plan to become financially independent from the state. Kelly said officials will target Junta clients for donations under $50, doubling its funding support from donors to about 25 percent.

More private funding will allow Junta officials to continue expanding their progressive political advocacy and be a place “where people really feel comfortable,” Huizar said.

“There’s always work that has to be done,” Trevino added. “We are just continuing to do our work and serve the needs of people.”

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