HAZLETON -- An anniversary alone was cause for celebration and the move to a larger location just added to the joy shared by the leaders of The Dominican House of Hazleton Inc.
They marked its seventh anniversary Sunday night with a party at Crystal Barbecue & Lounge on Broad Street, not far from where the non-profit organization will lease space for computer and vocational training, language and citizenship and naturalization classes.
The lease is expected to be signed this week for the first floor of a building at 2 Broad St., Victor Perez, president of The Dominican House, said. The organization is accepting donations of desks, chairs, computers, books and videos to be used at the soon-to-be-opened center.
"We are expanding our services to give more opportunities to our people," Perez said before the start of the festivities.
He said he expected as many as 300 people to stop by during the celebration that ran from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The organization, founded in August 2005, has been operating out of space on North Wyoming Street. It started with about 50 members and has grown to nearly 500. A core group of 100 people pay membership fees that support the training open to all members of the Hispanic community in the Hazleton area.
"We are here for whoever needs the services," Perez said.
He translated for Manuel Saldana, the organization's first president, who explained how The Dominican House came about. "It was necessary that the Dominicans and Hazleton City needed to create our organization to put everybody together," Saldana said through Perez.
Other speakers at the event implored the audience to spread the word about the organization. They spoke in their native language for the Spanish-speaking audience.
Perez's father, Victor Perez Sr., translated for Robert Arias, the organization's secretary, saying, "We need you to tell your friends and neighbors to help us to help yourselves."
The junior Perez implored the audience to get involved and demonstrate that they "are part of the solution" as industrious and enterprising members of the community, according to a translated copy of his speech.
He urged them to respect and work with local, state and federal officials "of this great nation that has welcomed us and gave us the opportunity to have a better quality of life, better education and opportunities for our children. Do not let anyone steal our ‘American Dream' " and turn it into a "nightmare," he said.