MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) — Morristown is becoming known as a welcome center for immigrant families. It’s even obvious to those driving into town along Cumberland Street, as it’s filled with authentic Hispanic and Latinx businesses.
Nelson Labarca said the small town is already feeling like home, sweet home. “Where he’s from in Venezuela is more of a small town, kind of like here,” said a translator and employee with Hola Lakeway, Jessica Bailiff-Noe.
She explained Labarca was a Petroleum Engineer before coming to the States. He said he came here for more opportunities. “There’s a lot of opportunity here, he’s always seen the United States that way, but the main reason he made the decision to come here was because of his sons,” she explained.
Betsy Hurst, the Executive Director of Hola Lakeway, said people like Nelson walk through her doors every day.
“The census reported that it’s about 14% now of Hispanic community in Morristown,” said Hurst of the Lakeway region’s growth.
This is one reason why Hola Lakeway is not just a resource for the Hispanic or Latinx communities, but for every immigrant, no matter where they come from.
Hola Lakeway offers English classes, workforce development programs, food assistance, advocacy in the school system, immigration legal consultations, and even COVID-19 resources with their Hola on the Move Campaign. It’s all in an effort to make sure these newcomers are integrated into the local way of life.
“You can see it in the community, they are usually looking how to integrate the community, the Hispanic community, into the activities, the events,” said Hurst.
For other communities wanting to do more, Hurst said it’s all about starting conversations. “Make a space for them, allow them to be their voice, to advocate for their own community,” she said.
As Betsy and Nelson both know, making somewhere so far feel like home can be tough, so places like Hola Lakeway can help. “Not having any resources and coming here and it being like a family has been a big help to him to his family,” said Bailiff-Noe.
A new place filled with opportunity, for the Labarca family and so many others.