Casa Marianella’s Community Center first opened its doors in 2007, setting up shop across the street from the original Adult Shelter on Gunter Street. From its humble beginnings, the Community Center distributed donated clothing to the community and began offering Sonadores Anonimos, a 12-step program in Spanish, and a series of women’s work and empowerment workshops. These workshops were founded by Arely Sulvaran-Achenbach to support and empower domestic workers. The program grew quickly and Rockie Gonzalez came on board, adding a mentorship component, then advocating for workers’ rights, finally spinning off into an independent organization with Casa’s blessing and support.
The evolution of the Community Center has been an incredible ride. Programs and services constantly change as the needs of Casa Marianella residents and the immigrant community change. The Center now provides space for counseling sessions, health classes and a wide range of community meetings and programs. The building is home to Casa Marianella Immigration Legal Services, the Oriental Medicine Clinic and our ESL program, which provides free English classes four nights a week. All of our ESL teachers are volunteers who devote their time to help immigrants learn English and feel more comfortable within the Austin community.
As a Community Center, almost all services are free and available to Casa Marianella residents, former residents and member of the immigrant community at-large. Many grant funders and individual donors keep our doors open and our services growing,
Notable mentions of two incredible Casa community members who have long served at the Community Center:
Hector Kuhn Naranjo founded the Oriental Medicine Clinic 8 years ago and provides acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutritional support to shelter residents and community members. He is a Master Practitioner of Oriental Medicine, Certified in Homeopathy, licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Oriental Medicine (Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs) by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and licensed by the State of Texas in Acupuncture.
Elise Harriger founded Casa Marianella Immigration Legal Services in 2010 with a single client, who was a resident at Casa Marianella. Harriger has served Casa Marianella in every possible way over 12 years: first as an AmeriCorps Member, then as a board member after law school. She quit her staff attorney job to found the clinic and worked pro bono for 15 months until Casa acquired donations and grants to fund the services.
As the Center celebrates 10 years of serving the immigrant community here in Austin, we reflect back on the growth and changes of the past decade. Since opening the Community Center, we have purchased five additional properties to house immigrants from over three dozen countries: one Adult Shelter, three Posada Esperanza houses for women and children escaping violence, and most recently, the first shelter in the U.S. to house two-parent immigrant families. We are excited and hopeful for the future growth of our Casa community! Thank you to all of our donors, volunteers, staff members and supporters for devoting their time, energy and hearts into making the Community Center such a success!
For more information about getting involved at the Community Center, please visit our volunteer page: http://www.casamarianella.org/volunteer/
Interested in supporting Casa Marianella? Visit our Rally page: https://rally.org/casamarianella.