By Rachel Valdespino
The Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, or OLA, recently announced that it had received a $100,000 matching grant from an anonymous couple, meaning that all donations to the organization will be matched dollar-for-dollar through the end of the year.
OLA, founded in 2002, is a nonprofit agency that supports and helps develop the Latino communities on the East End.
The anonymous couple that offered to make the donation learned about OLA and what it does through fellow area residents. They met with officials from the organization and came to the conclusion that the work the organization does is very much needed. Neither of them is Latino, but they do have a strong connection with Latin America — one of the two grew up in Peru.
“He and his wife helped us to start a college education fund — we’ve already given out six scholarships, and many of them are multi-year scholarships,” said OLA Executive Director Minerva Perez.
OLA was in need of establishing legal strength for a while, and thanks to the anonymous couple, OLA was able to hire a full-time human rights attorney, Andrew Strong.
“I was just stunned with delight when I heard about the matching grant — it’s just amazing to feel that support from the community and understand that people really believe in the work that we do,” said Mr. Strong. “This means that people are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
“Everybody is saying that what is happening is wrong, that there are human rights violations occurring daily. And people are willing to step up, and I think that’s really inspiring,” he said.
The matching grant will help fund many of OLA’s endeavors, including advocacy for assault and rape victims, fair access to school enrollment, including special needs students, and program expansion.
“This matching grant is a way to jump start a whole other level of giving,” said Ms. Perez.“This could be a great way for OLA to start securing some other funding from new sources — it’s all a matter of connecting with other people.”
The idea of a matching grant is appealing to a lot of people, and one of this size has a lot of potential for the growth of OLA. Donors like to see that someone else is invested and the anonymous couple understands that.
“This is a marathon mission,” explained Ms. Perez. “This is not something that we clear up in an election cycle. There’s stuff that has been going on in our community for a while that has gotten so bad that right now we need time to build back the pieces to build trust, to look at our systems with a fresh eye and to acknowledge that this is our community.”