Joseph Martin is pictured performing a sacred song for the grand opening of El Centro de la Raza. Haley Donwerth/staff photo

Joseph Martin is pictured performing a sacred song for the grand opening of El Centro de la Raza. Haley Donwerth/staff photo

El Centro de la Raza comes to Federal Way

“The Center for People of all Races” aims to bring hope to the community.

El Centro de la Raza — the center for people of all races — recently opened a new location in Federal Way.

Executive Director Estela Ortega spoke to the audience gathered at the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce luncheon Feb. 5 about all the things El Centro was able to do in Seattle, and the hope she has for Federal Way.

El Centro started 47 years ago, as a group of English as a second language students decided to occupy the current El Centro de la Raza building and help make it what it is today, Ortega said.

“Forty-seven years later, we have 43 different programs in the area of children and youth, human and emergency services, skill building programs, housing and economic development, and a lot of advocacy and cultural work that we do,” she said.

Currently, El Centro has a staff of 140 people and anywhere from 800 to 1,000 volunteers that help El Centro carry out its mission.

According to El Centro’s website, their mission is to “build unity across all racial and economic sectors, to organize, empower, and defend our most vulnerable and marginalized populations and to bring justice, dignity, equality, and freedom to all the peoples of the world.”

In addition, Ortega said they aim to bring affordable housing and childcare to the community.

“… Affordable housing can bring you together or it can separate you,” Ortega said — and she is proud that affordable housing from El Centro has been able to bring the community together.

Plaza Maestas has 112 housing units of one, two, and three bedroom floor plans that is 100% leased up. And the views from the top deck cannot be beat. In the distance you can see Mount Rainier, downtown Bellevue, downtown Seattle and the waterfront.

“Those are million dollar views,” she said, that people can get affordably through El Centro de la Raza.

And the grand opening of the Federal Way location on Feb. 7 showed how important this organization is to the community.

Several elected officials were at the opening, including Mayor Jim Ferrell, Deputy Mayor Susan Honda, and council members Mark Koppang and Lydia Assefa-Dawson, as well as many other community members and El Centro de la Raza employees and supporters.

To start off the ceremony, El Centro invited Jospeh Martin, who is part of the Comanche Tribe, to perform a traditional song welcoming the organization to the area.

There was authentic Mexican fare laid out for guests to enjoy under a tent on the windy Friday afternoon.

Guests toured the facility, seeing the offices and learning about all the different programs and services that the organization will be offer.

Ortega told the Mirror that while the Federal Way location does not have nearby affordable housing options like they do in Seattle, she hopes that will change in the coming years.

For the current affordable housing that El Centro has in Seattle, Plaza Roberto Maestas, Ortega told the Mirror it took seven-and-a-half years to plan for it and an additional two to construct it.

She also said she was invited by the Federal Way City Council to give a presentation at their next council meeting about the services El Centro is providing out of Federal Way.

All of the services El Centro offers from Federal Way will be with local service organizations, though the services offered in Seattle are still an option in certain cases.

The list of services El Centro offers includes services for child care, financial services and training, job training programs, personal growth, low-income housing opportunities and many more.

A full list of their services can be found at elcentrodelaraza.org.


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Estela Ortega (right) speaks with some guests at El Centro de la Raza’s grand opening. Haley Donwerth/staff photo

Estela Ortega (right) speaks with some guests at El Centro de la Raza’s grand opening. Haley Donwerth/staff photo

A large gathering attended the El Centro de la Raza grand opening to tour the facility and learn more about what they do. Haley Donwerth/staff photo

A large gathering attended the El Centro de la Raza grand opening to tour the facility and learn more about what they do. Haley Donwerth/staff photo

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