A Key in the Corvallis Community: Casa Latinos Unidos


Rafael Quero Juarez

(Left to right) Gustavo Esparza, Yanci Hernandez, Ricardo Contreras, Ken Crouse, and OMN writer Katie Livermore meet in the CLU room at Garfield Elementary School on Sept. 30.

Katie Livermore, News Contributor

When you walk into the office of Casa Latinos Unidos, you’re welcomed by friendly faces who share a passion for helping others.

“Casa Latinos Unidos is what is known as a culturally specific organization that was founded in 2009 by a group of concerned citizens that included and was led by Dr. Linda Gonzalez Berry,” said Ricardo Contreras, executive director of Casa Latinos Unidos, who is originally from Chile. 

CLU is based in Corvallis, and has four programmatic areas: family empowerment, capacity building, celebration of cultures and system performance.

According to Contreras, family empowerment performs wraparound support to families in the community. Capacity building constructs resilience in the Latinx community through culturally appropriate educational programs.

“(We have) celebration of cultures that has to do precisely in implementing activities that celebrate the cultures of the people who reside in Linn-Benton County that share a heritage from Latin American countries,” Contreras said.

Finally, system performance aims to increase the participation in decision making processes from individuals in the Latinx community. 

Each team member has their own story that drives them to help their community.

“I am from El Salvador. I moved to the U.S. when I was 10 and I lived in Los Angeles for about a year and then I moved to Oregon” said Yanci Hernandez, the Coordinator for Engagement and Capacity Building for CLU.

Hernandez didn’t speak any English when she arrived in the U.S. and said the move was a culture shock. She quickly learned the language, though her parents didn’t speak any English.

“So from a very young age, I would take care of bills or translating how to write things or calling the pharmacy or making appointments and things like that,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is a student in the Honors College studying Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University.

“I’m very excited to be a part of CLU and to help the community,” Hernandez said. 

According to Contreras, when COVID-19 hit the community, CLU played a key role in supporting the Latinx community, mainly for individuals who lost jobs and needed assistance in covering their expenses. 

“At the center of everything that we do is a deep identification with the community with which we work. Because all of the members of the team, they are people who share common experiences, life experiences with the people within the world,” Contreras said.

CLU hosts a wide array of workshops for the Latinx community. They recently exhibited Nuestras Historias, an event hosted at Corvallis Museum that displayed interviews of 20 different Latinx community members.

“We asked them about who they are, where they come from, their journey, because most of them had a pretty big journey,” Hernandez said. “We wanted to know more about their story.”

The videos are now posted on their YouTube channel, and Nuestras Historias will continue to be an ongoing event.

Over the summer, CLU offered a financial and nutritional education program for children and families in the Latinx community.

“That program was very successful. We had an average of 30 families coming to each session for eight sessions, downtown at the Riverfront Park,” Contreras said. 

In October, CLU plans to start a program to provide women in the Latinx community a place to relax through art and music at Garfield Elementary. 

Another program is led by Gustavo Esparza, the coordinator of Jóvenes en Acción.

“[Jóvenes en Acción] is a project designed for high school students to learn about research, collecting data, analyzing it, interpreting it and creating an action plan to address it,” Esparza said. 

CLU has a team of ten and a network of volunteers who donate their time to build new ways to support the Latinx community.

“Where I can contribute something, I’ve been given that opportunity and had the chance to work with a lot of really dedicated people. Occasionally, get to interface with people in the community as well. I really like that,” said Ken Crouse, a volunteer at Casa Latinos Unidos.

“We are tremendously grateful to the many people in the community that support us through donations. Without their support, our organization could not exist,” Contreras said.

CLU will continue to create ways to support Linn-Benton county and are looking to expand their team and network of volunteers.


CLU recognizes they couldn’t exist without key contributors with Oregon Humanities, Corvallis School District, Greater Albany Public Schools, Benton County, City of Corvallis, Community Services Consortium, Farmworker House and Development Corporation, Colonia Paz, Hispanic Advisory Committee, Oregon Health Authority, Benton Community Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, United Way, Intercommunity Health Network CCO, Museum of Corvallis and more.


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