New Director Aims to Help Cristo Rey

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The Cristo Rey Community Center introduced its new executive director Monday and he received a standing ovation, from longtime members and local nonprofits alike.

"There's some enthusiasm," said Andrea Rodriguez, who chaired the selection committee. "And as you can see here the number of individuals who are willing to partner with us. Money isn't only the check we get in the mail. It's also the talents and skills of the individuals who we partner with."

A man Rodriguez says has the perfect blend of expertise, enthusiasm and motivation addressed a full house at 1717 N. High St., promising to serve those in need and proclaiming that effort creates opportunity.

"One of the biggest things we need to do is remind the community of the things that we do here at Cristo Rey," said Garcia. "You can have a wonderful storefront and a wonderful product but if people don't go inside you don't know it. And sometimes you have to connect the dots and that's really what I intend to do."

Garcia graduated from Western Michigan University and received an MBA from Northwood University. He is the former director of MBA Career Services at Michigan State University and has worked at several nonprofits. He is a former Cristo Rey volunteer too.

Garcia faces the challenge of turning around a community center that has had to cut its programs as its funding decreases and demand for its services increases. Director of Marketing George Alvarado says Cristo Rey's food bank feeds 10,000 people every year and its health clinic sees 9,000 people every year.

Cristo Rey also provides community events, a youth program and a program for senior citizens.

Garcia acknowledged the financial troubles, saying all nonprofits are struggling these days. The solution, Garcia says is doing more with less.

"I want to create efficiencies," he said. "I want us to maximize our resources because there's a lot of good that's needed out here. We need to be able to be there to be able to provide service and so we have to be in the position to be able to do so."

Roberto Quiroga, who has been coming to Cristo Rey for a decade says he's optimistic that Garcia can help secure funding for transportation for senior citizens, a demographic Quiroga says has dipped in recent years.

"Realistically, we're lacking monetary help," he said. "Other kinds of help too, but especially monetary. Maybe if they can secure some programs that help us, things can change and change significantly."

Catalina Arcaute, who has been a consistent member since 2005 says the community needs a place like Cristo Rey.

"This means a lot to me because for the seniors especially, some of them are home and they want to get out of the house and not be all inside," she said. "This is a good opportunity for them to come out of the house and come here and joke around. Hopefully he will get things going the right way and get more people in here."

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