Casa of Maryland is in line for a $245,000 state grant to renovate its Silver Spring Welcome Center. The Montgomery County Council is set to give its support after a request by County Executive Ike Leggett.
"Casa does a lot of good things for the community and they've been a good community partner in many efforts," said councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-at large) of Silver Spring.
Casa, a Maryland-based immigration advocacy program, works to improve the quality of life for low-income Latinos and other immigrant communities, according to the organization's website.
The group's centers help day laborers find employment. They also provide English language classes, vocational training and legal services.
"We've been supportive of the need to help regularize day labor activities in the county and the Silver Spring center is the oldest one in the county," said Patrick Lacefield, Leggett's spokesman. "We felt that Casa does good work on day labor and we wanted to support it."
The Silver Spring center, opened in 1994, is the oldest in the state and has requested assistance from the Maryland Community Legacy program for building renovations.
The grant would be used to purchase two trailers and equipment, and to replace windows, renovate restrooms, and upgrade the electrical, heating and air conditioning systems.
Founded in 2001 in a sweep of state programs to promote smart growth, the Community Legacy grants go to older communities identified by local governments as in need of revitalization.
For fiscal 2012, which ends June 30, Community Legacy has $4.25 million to award out of requests for several times that amount, said Kevin Baynes, director of sustainable communities for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Two-thirds of the applications typically come from municipal and county government and one-third come from nonprofits. The grants pay for brick-and-mortar projects that support community growth, such as Main Street projects in communities like Takoma Park, Baynes said.
"We try to respond to a community plan, so we try to focus on what makes sense in given community," Baynes said.
The Silver Spring center serves 400 people annually, said Jennifer Freedman, Casa's director of development. Last year, the center placed workers in 2,800 jobs and recruited 378 new employers for the program, she said.
"The facilities can't be utilized to their full capacity right now because they're in poor condition," Freedman said. These conditions include inadequate heating, electrical issues, general building deterioration, faulty windows and ceiling leaks. Typically, the center sees between 30 and 75 job seekers daily, Freedman said, but those numbers have been going down.
"We think that's in part because we don't have the capacity to serve people well in crumbling facilities," she said.
Last year, Casa's five centers helped put more than $3 million into the pockets of low-wage families, Freedman said.
"These centers are an engine of economic activity for the state and the region," she said. "It's imperative that they’re in operative condition so that we can continue to contribute to the economy."
Editor's Note: The original story misstated that the resolution was approved Nov. 29. The matter will be decided Dec. 6. We regret the error.