Community Services Fair at Language ETC

A few years back one of my students had a toothache that lasted for a week. He didn’t have a clue where to get help for the problem, and we didn’t know either. We did a little research and directed him to the Spanish Catholic Center, which has a low-cost dental clinic that is immigrant-friendly. It’s worth knowing about the resources that are out there in the community for our students. Ashley Lipps, our program director, prepared this write-up of the recent Community Services Fair.

By Ashley Lipps, LETC Program Director

On Tuesday and Wednesday, October 9–10, Language ETC welcomed organizations from around the Washington area to a Community Services Fair in the LETC auditorium. Staff and volunteers from nonprofit organizations and DC government agencies set up tables with information and chatted with our students and teachers about the services they provide. If you missed the fair, keep reading to learn about some of the great organizations that attended. You never know when you, a loved one, or one of your students or classmates might be able to benefit from these services.

Know someone who needs assistance with immigration issues or a domestic violence situation? Ayuda, a nonprofit organization, provides multilingual social and legal services to low-income immigrants in the DC metropolitan area. They offer weekly consultation hours with lawyers on immigration issues, as well as legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, or sexual assault.

The Legal Aid Society of DC provides civil legal aid to people in the District who could not otherwise afford to hire a lawyer. They give priority to cases concerning evictions and homelessness, affordable housing, domestic violence, child support and custody arrangements, and debt collection, among other issues.

A representative of the Equal Rights Center explains its work to protect civil rights in the areas of disabilities, employment, and fair housing.

The Equal Rights Center informs people about their civil rights under law, including disability rights, employment rights, and fair housing rights, and helps people protect themselves against discrimination. The ERC’s Immigrant Rights Program does outreach in a variety of languages.

The Metropolitan Police Department’s Latino Liaison Unit reaches out to the Latino community in an attempt to gain trust and strengthen the community-police relationship. They conduct patrols and respond to citizen complaints.

Many of our students want more English practice outside of class. Some are interested in getting their GED. The Adult Literacy Resource Center at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library downtown has English conversation circles, materials for studying English, and book discussion groups for adult learners. They also have GED study materials, and you can take the practice GED there — including in Spanish or French.

A student checks out the Spanish Catholic Center’s table.

Run by the Archdiocese of Washington, the Spanish Catholic Center offers an array of services for immigrants, including medical and dental clinics, job training programs, English classes, and a food pantry at locations in DC and the Maryland suburbs.

Small Smiles Dental Centers provide quality dental care for children from low-income families, primarily those covered by Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The company has clinics across the United States, including two in DC.

The Latino Economic Development Corporation promotes home ownership and small business development.

Many immigrants in the DC area dream of owning their home. The Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) offers classes and counseling on how to buy a home, as well as how to prevent foreclosure. They also help tenants take control of the decisions that affect their apartment buildings, and they provide small business lending and development services.

Know a creative and business-minded immigrant woman? Empowered Women International is a nonprofit organization that promotes the arts and entrepreneurial success for immigrant and refugee women and families. They offer a business start-up program, Entrepreneur Training for Success.

Empowered Women International helps immigrant women who want to become entrepreneurs.

Seeking to bridge the digital divide, Byte Back-DC provides computer literacy, technology, and employment readiness courses to low-income DC residents.

Capital Area Asset Builders offers financial workshops on topics such as budgeting and saving, credit, income taxes, saving for retirement, saving for college, and investing. CAAB also provides matched savings programs to promote homeownership, postsecondary education, and small business development.

DC residents who are saving for college, whether for themselves or for a child, should be aware of the DC College Savings Plan. As the District of Columbia’s 529 college savings investment plan, it offers tax benefits and only requires a small monthly contribution to get started.

The 2004 Language Access Act guarantees interpretation and translation services at all DC government agencies, as well as the right to file a complaint if language access rights are denied. Many Languages One Voice educates the community about these rights and works to promote the meaningful inclusion of DC residents who speak limited English.

The DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs requires landlords to meet housing health and safety codes, an important issue for tenants.

The DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs regulates construction and business activity in the city. Among other functions, it inspects rental housing and requires landlords to remedy housing code violations.

Have a problem with a utility provider? The Office of the People’s Counsel is an independent agency of the DC government that advocates for consumers of natural gas, electric, and telephone services in the District and helps resolve problems with these utilities.

If you or someone you know is involved in a nonprofit or government organization that would like to attend a future Community Services Fair, e-mail Ashley Lipps at

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