Tara Davila (left) and Yari Ijeh (right), co-chairs of the Progreso Latino Fund Advisory Committee. (Courtesy of the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven)

Scholarships for two New Haven high schoolers. Celebrations honoring Latinx leaders. Tens of thousands of dollars raised for disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico and Mexico. Forums on topics ranging from race to mental health within the Latinx community. 

These are just a few of the initiatives organized by the Progreso Latino Fund  in the 20 years since its founding. The PLF is a philanthropic fund within the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and is one of 15 funds the Community Foundation supports, alongside a Community Fund for Women and Girls and a Black Futures Fund. 

“[With this] idea of growing philanthropy, Latinos are generous people just by nature,” said Tara Davila, co-chair of the PLF Advisory Committee. “You can hop in anybody’s home and there’ll be a plate of food for you. You call for help, people will be ready to help. And so for me, [the PLF] was also tapping into that generous nature and dispelling the myth that you can only be involved in philanthropy if you’re fairly wealthy.” 

In 2003, the PLF was founded by ten Puerto Rican community leaders with the goal of helping the Latinx community of greater New Haven, according to Davila. Since its founding, $174,264 in grants have been awarded to the local Latinx community. Although not a direct service agency, the PLF strives to support and help fund organizations that are seeking to “meet the needs” of a diverse Latinx community. 

As part of PLF’s 20th anniversary celebration, the Community Foundation will contribute $2,000 each for up to 40 new Latinx-focused charitable funds started by New Haven community members. These funds will eventually be converted into grants in support of Latinx causes of the grant creator’s choosing and will be named after the grant creator. For Matthew Higbee, the content and engagement manager for the Community Foundation, naming the funds after these individuals may help create more diversity within philanthropy. 

“With more Latinos with named funds out in the community, other Latinos see that,” said Higbee. “That’s when people see named funds on the back of programs at the symphony or at arts institutions, and so forth. That’s something that we really want to diversify and make [philanthropy] more reflective of our community.” 

In addition, the Community Foundation will match every donation given to the PLF, up to $20,000. 

New Haveners have already created five of the 40 new funds, which Tara Davila describes as “five new areas of possibility” for perpetual support for important issues within the community. 

“The more representation we have for funds, the more diverse initiatives and activities will be supported,” said Davila. “If you have a bunch of Black and Brown folks who are growing in their ability to give, the options and the organizations and the causes that they’re going to choose to support is going to reflect the needs and in the interest of their community. … And so the idea to expand Latino philanthropy is part of how we are choosing to celebrate our 20th year.”

Beginning this year, the PLF will also introduce a series of multi-generational mental health webinars to increase Latinx families’ access to “culturally responsive” care in their native language. With different programs for children, adults and seniors, the webinars were designed with the consideration that many Latino adults are taking care of both children and elders, said Davila. 

The webinars, which will begin on March 30, aim to provide families with avenues to get help or support, according to Liana Garcia, director of gift planning at the Community Foundation. In addition to focusing on emotional well-being, the webinars will also address mental health with a holistic lens. 

“We’re calling [the webinars] ‘Legacy planning for you and those you love,’” said Garcia. “And that has also arisen out of the fact that your financial well being also impacts our mental health. And so in that program, we want to make sure that Latinos are aware of the legal documents they should have in place, the insurance coverage that they should have in place, how to create a budget and also how to then formalize their charitable giving.”

Davila encouraged the Yale community to contribute to the PLF, whether through attending events, by volunteering or by contributing to the match campaign. 

“Students who are willing to join and want to know more, please come to our events, please reach out to any of us,” said Davila.  “We want your energy.” 

The PLF will host their 20th Anniversary Kickoff at Bregamos Community Theater on Thursday, Feb. 2. 

Laura Ospina covers Yale-New Haven relations and the Latine community for the City desk. Originally from North Carolina's Research Triangle, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Political Science.