Unified Voices at HUF #RiseAbove

For the past 35 years, HUF has assisted individuals seeking freedom and opportunity on their journey to their American dream.

While working on our mission of Empowering a New Generation of Americans, we have always been committed to diversity, cultural awareness and non-discrimination, as noted by our values.  We made a promise to ourselves and the community that the message of acceptance and tolerance would always be expressed in everything we say and do.

Our commitment is reflected in the clients we serve. Our doors and our services are available to anyone who needs them. We serve individuals from 25 different countries, and we do this work in four languages. Forty percent of our clients are non-Hispanic, and we’re proud that our clients, staff, and partners reflect our rich diversity.

We believe that every American should have an opportunity to live his or her American dream. Embracing diversity makes us stronger as a community and as a country. And we have proof of that at our organization where the diversity of our staff and clients is one of our strongest differentiators as an organization. It defines who we are and what we do.

Reaching out to others who are different from us is the first step to understanding “the other” and to begin the work of recognizing that we all want essentially the same things for ourselves and our families: a good paying job, affordable shelter, access to health and education and the public space to engage in civic life.

Reaching out is the first step we must take to Rise Above the caustic and negative narrative that is dividing us as a country and holding us back from creating the future we all aspire to.

We want to hear from you! 

In this space, we encourage you to share your stories, ideas, and actions that show how people and communities are working together to ensure America reaches its highest potential.


#RiseAbove is a national campaign championed by UnidosUS.

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HUF’s Te Ayudo Program, Funded by Humana, Helps Shape a Healthier Future for our Community

What value can you place on health insurance? The recent emotional testimony about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gives us a sense of the importance of health insurance to a solid economic footing. To one Hispanic Unity of Florida (HUF) client, access to healthcare through HUF’s Te Ayudo program is a cornerstone of American life.


Te Ayudo, which means “I can help you,” is funded by the Humana Foundation. The program increases healthcare access for many uninsured and under-insured individuals and families like Ms. Mayeris Bermúdez, a 44 year-old single mother from Venezuela.

Ms. Bermúdez, who arrived last July with her 13-year-old son, immediately began working to normalize their immigration status. Early this year, she received her Employment Authorization Card but was found ineligible for health insurance coverage through the ACA.

A friend recommended HUF, where the Te Ayudo navigator helped Ms. Bermúdez update her ACA application. Unfortunately, she was again found ineligible for the Special Enrollment Period through a technicality.

The HUF navigator, Guillermina Degracia, believed that the denial of coverage was incorrect. With their help, Ms. Bermúdez mounted an appeal. The crux of the issue is that Ms. Bermúdez was enrolling during the Special Enrollment period because of a change in income, not her immigration status. Fueled with the experience of the Te Ayudo navigator, Ms. Bermúdez was able to enroll in a healthcare plan with a monthly premium under $35 using tax credits to augment her $18,000 annual income.

Since its inception in 2016, hundreds of Broward County-area residents like Ms. Bermúdez have gained access to critical services through Te Ayudo. HUF is proud to partner with the Humana Foundation, which seeks to improve community health and well-being while addressing root causes and barriers that keep people from being their healthiest.

Broward County is a priority for Humana, as the company is committed to making the community 20 percent healthier by 2020 as part of its Bold Goal initiative. HUF is proud to partner with Humana to help create a healthier, more inclusive community for Ms. Bermúdez and others.

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35 Years of Impact: The Power of Community

The Community Unites to Make Life Comfortable for Grandma, Charnecia, and Marqis

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Earlier this year at HUF… Together, Grandma Gwendolyn, Charnecia and Marqis are a close-knit family. Gwendolyn has long since cared for the children as her own. But recently, hardship struck the household.

The lease on the family’s home was rejected for renewal. They had been living in the hot South Florida weather with no air conditioning, and the house desperately needed repairs. Though Grandma Gwendolyn was able to find a new place to live, the family was without furnishings or even beds to sleep on.

Luckily, Charnecia and Marquis were enrolled in Hispanic Unity’s Unity 4Teens Afterschool and Summer school Program at McNicol Middle School. Grandma Gwendolyn shared their needs with the school, and through Hispanic Unity, the family was able to get new beds, dressers, and night tables courtesy of Channel 7 and El Dorado Furniture. Employees of Hispanic Unity also contributed with a dining table and living room furniture. They made the new house into a home!

Their future awaits: Charnecia dreams of being in law enforcement and Marqis wants to pursue a career in basketball, where his talent has already earned him many awards.

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Gwendolyn has shared her gratitude, saying: “We’re blessed, we’re just so happy and thankful to be able to sleep in comfortable beds, and thankful. I didn’t expect this, I want to cry but I want to be happy!”

That’s the power of community! Thank you to El Dorado Furniture and WSVN Channel 7 for making life comfortable for this family. We are all full of gratitude and joy because of your generosity. Bravo!

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Bank Executive: Why he supports “Dreamers”

Guest Columnist Luis G. Lobo is an executive in the banking industry.

Children are not held responsible for the actions of their parents.

In a free society, we long ago established that the actions of parents were not held against their children. Debtor courts may move against the assets of the parents, but not to the future assets or incomes of their children.  A child can not be charged with the crime committed by a parent as long ago stated in the bible: Ezekiel 18:20 tells us, “The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.”

Undocumented children brought into our country by their parents should NOT be removed against their will; given that they had no say in leaving their country of origin.  There are approximately 2 million such cases in the United States, 800,000 having been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals through the issuance of the U.S. Employment Authorization Card, a vetted federal I.D.

My brother and I were brought to the U.S. from Costa Rica in the early 1960’s. A third brother was born in the U.S. and then my mother suffered a post-partum depression, so she returned to Costa Rica, with now, three children. After a year of recovery, she reunited with my father and two more siblings were born in the US. We were finally able to reunite as a family in 1970, at which time my brother and I became the first two Latino students to ever set foot in the Lincoln County (NC) Public School System. We lost a brother to a rare lung decease, but four of five siblings hold college degrees and are working, contributing members to the society in which we live. We recently celebrated 50 years in America. It started with a man landing at JFK with $50 in his pocket, pursuing the American Dream. It was not achieved alone, it took the effort and the help of many people. A hand-up is not a hand-out.

Eventually we all became American Citizens, but one must understand, immigration is a very difficult and traumatic experience for a young person.  I recall crying myself to sleep knowing it could be many years until I saw my father as he worked to establish himself to bring his family to the US, then again, missing my grandparents and other family in Costa Rica upon permanently moving here.

America has been the beneficiary of the labor of those having been granted Deferred Action. These individuals were hired for their skills and future potential, not because they had been issued Deferred Action. In a full-employment economy, the challenge of every business today is for intellectual capital.  Maybe the U.S. economy can sustain the loss of these working young people.  Morally, this will be a collective stain on our sense of righteousness.

Americans are better than this.

Luis G. Lobo



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Dreamers: They are America’s Children

This is the only country most have ever known.

They speak English, and it’s often their main language.

They have one of the highest college completion rates – 85% – according to a recent study.

They serve in the armed forces or students.

They are lawyers, nurses, teachers and small business owners.

They are making significant contributions to our economy. And removing them will result in a DECREASE in GDP of $460 BILLION over the next decade.

They are some of the 800,000 Dreamers that are part of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) program whose fate will be determined, many believe, on September 5th.

And above all, they are our children, America’s children. They represent the best of our country – they want to contribute. They want to succeed professionally. They want to change the world.

And they want, above all, to stay and be given a shot at continuing to build their lives in the U.S.

And, on Sept. 5th  – the country they LOVE – the country they are willing to die for – their country – may turn them away.

Below are links to several recent editorials on why you should care and what you can do on their behalf.

The Moral Argument by Dr. Padron, President of Miami-Dade College

The Economic Argument By Tom K. Wong, Greisa Martinez Rosas, Adam Luna, Henry Manning, Adrian Reyna, Patrick O’Shea, Tom Jawetz, and Philip E. Wolgin


For now, the Trump Administration should allow DACA to remain in place by NOT rescinding this Executive Order. But the long term solution is for Congress to pass legislation that provides a permanent fix for these youth.

Below you can find out more information on the options, as well as talking points.

What you can do

Contact your Congressional Delegation– in particular Senator Rubio and ask him to support one of the several immigration bills that would provide support relief to the Dreamers OR ask the President to NOT rescind DACA!

Don’t wait. Make the call today – right now!

Thank you,

Josie Bacallao

P.S. If you support the Dreamers, you’re in good company. Eight out of every 10 Americans believe they should remain in the U.S. Remind your congressional representatives about this!


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35 Years of Impact: English classes and job training at HUF changed Tania’s and her children’s lives… for good!

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Times were tough for Tania Chinchilla when she first arrived in the U.S. in 2015. She and her two children had made the journey from Panama with only a limited grasp of the English language and no one to turn to in their new country.

Tania had to find a way to support her family; she needed help finding a career and a path forward.

Luckily, Tania heard about HUF, and joined the Bridge Program in August 2016. She immediately enrolled in Customer Service and Sales training, was awarded a scholarship to pay for the exam fee. She passed. Determined to build a better life, Tania also enrolled in the Bridge Program’s Bank Teller training in October 2016 – all while simultaneously taking English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.

While she successfully gained employment as a merchandise supervisor at Macy’s for the holiday season, Tania’s long-term goal was to work in a bank, just as she had in her native country of Panama.

Her hard work and HUF’s help paid off. On February 20, 2017, Tania informed HUF that she had secured employment at TD Bank as a bank teller. In her words: “I’m still in shock with the great news! I’m grateful to Hispanic Unity’s team for their dedication, passion and guidance. I will continue to do my best.”

Read more anniversary celebration stories in our blog!

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Why advocate?  And how to get started.

One of my favorite books on not-for-profit management is called Forces for Good by   Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. The authors posit that there are six practices that define high-impact independent sector organizations. The first best practice on their list is this: Work with government and advocate for change.


Most readers may think having this item as the first principle is odd. However, most nonprofit leaders will tell you we are proud of the work we do to change lives. But to make long-lasting change – change that will eventually eliminate the need for our agency’s very own existence – can only happen if we change the rules of the game for those we serve. For HUF that means removing barriers to opportunity in education, the economy and society. It means insisting that our public policies reflect our nation’s belief in fairness and equal opportunity.

We will engage in this work because we believe we are better, as people, and as a country, when we welcome our neighbors, care for each other, and help those in need. We are better when we embrace our differences.

And, public policy and advocacy can provide context for the work we do with our clients and the services we provide them, as well as, inform public policy with real world experiences. It will make our work complete.

During HUF’s 35th year of empowering and guiding aspiring Americans on their journey to their American dream, our Board of Directors has determined that public policy and advocacy should be part of the agency’s work.  The decision was based on our values, the reason why HUF was originally created and the experiences of those who built the organization.

The work is important – and demanding – and new to us. We have much to learn.

Our goals are straightforward:

  • Work closely with policymakers to propose and support policies that reduce socioeconomic disparities in education, careers, health access, financial well-being and citizenship and advance HUF’s Mission through local, state & federal government partnerships;
  • Raise awareness of policies that intentionally or inadvertently increase socioeconomic disparities in education, careers, health access, financial well-being and citizenship;
  • Ensure the presence of HUF – and client –  voices in state and federal policy debates and,
  • Increase civic engagement of immigrants in the electoral and political process.

These are ambitious goals with an ever-changing and dynamic list of objectives.

In addition to advancing policies that are good for our clients and create awareness of policies that might hurt them, we also want to educate and empower our clients to add their own voice to the public square. And, lastly, we aim to encourage greater participation in the electoral process by those we serve.

Yes, ambitious but critically important.

We wanted to share this exciting new addition to HUF’s work because you are part of the HUF Family. You share our values. You believe in our mission. You are a volunteer or financially support our work.

We will start the work – slowly. Our values will inform what we do, in the same way that they guide our mission delivery – every day.

We will remain the nonpartisan agency you’ve come to respect and support. We will not engage in personal attacks. We will respect other’s points of views.  And we will be guided by 501 C3 laws.

dreamer photoBy not engaging in public policy and advocacy work, we are not fully fulfilling our vision of Empowering everyone to live their American dream which at times requires removing barriers or creating bridges.

In the weeks and months to come, we will begin to increase our communication on policy issues, you will receive information on advancing specific policies and you will see greater involvement by our clients in effecting changes that will benefit them, their families, our whole community and our nation.

Thank you for being part of the HUF Family. And we look forward to working with you and others to be an even greater “Force for Good.”

Josie Bacallao

President & CEO

Hispanic Unity of Florida, Inc.

P.S.  In the weeks ahead, we will increase our communication on issues such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and DACA for Dreamers (young children brought to the U.S.). If you are interested in volunteering your time for these projects – or other HUF programs – we would love to hear from you.

Click here to complete this simple form and we’ll reach out to you.

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