LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Before the Americana Community Center was the robust holistic center it is now, Edgardo Mansilla was doing similar work in Argentina, "I was a pastor in Argentina working with the poor of the poor."
Leading the war on poverty in his country while simultaneously being faced with death threats from militants.
"I knew that I was leaving my house, I didn't know if I was coming back every day for several years," Mansilla said.
Facing that uncertainty gives you a different perspective on life, Mansilla said he found a way to give a voice to those in need.
Recognized nationally for his social work, he received a scholarship to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From his experiences, Americana was built.
"The center is based on three simple principles, human dignity, social justice and holistic services," said Edgardo.
Beginning in one apartment, the community center quickly grew to two, three and finally they expanded to the former all girls school they're at now.
"It was the day that I wrote the biggest check of my life because the funders were so nice, we could pay in cash, literally," he said.
The multi-ethnic center continues to grow with their participants needs. With people from 100 countries, Americana serves thousands of refugees and immigrants just like Edgardo once was.
Their focus is on the two-generation education approach. That means educating the parents as well as the kids.
An example is when Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) switch to online non-traditional instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents didn't know how to use a computer, so Americana offered computer classes. They also put wifi in their parking lot. He said the organization gave around $5 million in special donations throughout the pandemic.
Helping those like him who are starting over in a new country with a different language and it's own social norms.
"If you can see me as a person and not as a Latinx, if you can recognize my humanity, not just my ethnicity...there is a lot that can be done, just build relationships," Mansilla said.
Building a refuge within the community.
"What is the future? Who knows. But whatever is coming our way, we will be able to do something," he said.
To learn more on the Americana Community Center, click here.