EASTON — The Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center on Friday, Oct. 11, celebrated the grand opening of its new home, at 331 E. Dover St., with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Since 2012, ChesMRC has provided services to immigrants from about 50 countries. Its primary focus is to help limited English proficient individuals successfully integrate into the community.
Offerings include an after-school program where ChesMRC and Talbot County Public Schools partnered to implement and provide a 21st Century Community Learning Center program to Talbot students in grades one through five; Cub Scouts; Girl Scouts; English as a Second Language classes for adults; citizenship classes; driver’s license assistance; a resource center; Language Access & Cultural Competence Program; and immigration legal assistance.
“A little project we started in 2012 has taken a hold not just here in Talbot County, but obviously a lot of our clients on the Eastern Shore,” said ChesMRC Executive Director Matthew Peters. “Last count, we are at 3,800 clients that we have served through this center. Our mission is to engage and empower, and I couldn’t be prouder of what I have achieved.”
An estimated 60 people attended the event and took a tour of the new space. Government officials included Easton Mayor Robert Willey; Easton Town Councilman Al Silverstein; John Ford, town council president and president of the board of ChesMRC; Town Councilman Ronald Engle; Town Councilwoman Megan Cook; Talbot County Council President Corey Pack; Talbot County Councilman Frank Divilio; Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot; Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore; and Melissa Kelly, representative of Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives Director of Hispanic Affairs Lorena Rivera also was in attendance and presented a governor’s citation to ChesMRC.
“I met Matthew in 2015, and I came over here and I was just astonished from all the work that they do here,” Rivera said. “They hold a very special place in my heart. I was taken aback from all of the work they are doing with the Latino community. Thank you for bringing me into your world ... It opened up their eyes and my eyes. I couldn’t miss this for the world.”
ChesMRC became a Department of Justice accredited organization in 2016 and can directly assist, without the need for a lawyer, all immigration cases. ChesMRC also became a Certified Application Counselor Organization and can directly enroll or renew families into Medicaid and health insurance plans.
To embark on this major adventure, ChesMRC acquired a $465,000 mortgage.
Laura Diaz of Easton has been a client of ChesMRC for several years. Originally came from Chiapas, Mexico, Diaz said is grateful for all the resources ChesMRC has provided her, including learning English. For Diaz, having a bigger space will allow ChesMRC to help all members of the community.
“Matthew helped me find a program to study English and help my family in many things,” Diaz said. “When I first got here 10 years, I did not speak or read English, and I would come here and they would help me with anything I needed help with.
“It’s great to have a bigger space because there is sometimes a lot of people waiting, and it is more comfortable. I am grateful for Matthew and all the work he has done, and we are happy to have him in the community.”
According to ChesMRC’s website, clients, staff, board members and donors helped renovate and prepare the new facilities. For several days, lawyers turned into painters and elected officials into plumbers.
Long hours of volunteer service helped ChesMRC create a new space that reflects its character, dreams and soul. The interior walls of the building now evoke the light and the warmth of the myriad countries many remember as “home.”
Pack congratulated Peters for his hard work and dedication to ChesMRC, and said he is excited for its new space.
“I know that you get around in lending your talent and your time to other agencies, as well as this one here which, is your heart and your soul, but I agree with you to make this possible,” Pack said. “Diversity is the blood of the community in my opinion. The more we can learn to talk to one another and listen to one another, the better off we are going to be as a community.”
ChesMRC hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit www.chesmrc.org.