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Ribbon-cutting ceremony held for new Gándara Center location in downtown Springfield, Mass.

Gándara Center CEO Lois Nesci addresses community members as well as state and local leaders at the center's ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Feb. 9.
James Paleologopoulos
Gándara Center CEO Lois Nesci addresses community members as well as state and local leaders at the center's ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Feb. 9.

A family resource center specializing in culturally sensitive care has a new home in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts.

The Gándara Center’s Gaucher Street location has long offered bilingual mental health programs, educational services, and more for families across the Springfield-area – all while operating by the city’s Pine Point and Upper Hill neighborhoods.

But on Friday, state and local leaders joined the center’s staff in celebrating Gándara’s new location at 1095 Main Street, in the heart of downtown.

The new facility boasts multiple spaces for programs offered by the center, which serves more than 1,000 individuals, according to CEO Lois Nesci, who spoke to community members attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“That doesn't happen alone – it happens with all the partnerships that we have in the community, and all of you are partners,” Nesci told the crowd. “You know, it takes a village and community to support our village and community, and so that's who we are here today.”

Founded in 1977, the community-based, not-for-profit agency has grown out of Springfield and spans multiple locations, all while promoting quote “the wellbeing of Hispanic, African-American, and other culturally diverse populations through innovative, culturally competent health, prevention, and education services,” according to the MassHealth website.

Presenting a citation recognizing the center, State Senator Jake Oliveira of Ludlow emphasized the role organizations like Gándara play in Massachusetts.

“We need our partners in the nonprofit sector to plug in those holes, to provide that safety net, to know and show people the amount of services that are here in the Commonwealth, to guide them through some very difficult times,” Oliveira said. “And that's what this center will do and can continue to do right here in downtown Springfield.”

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno praised what he called the selflessness of the center’s staff.

“You reach out to them - you put your arm around their shoulder, maybe you give them a hug, and you let them know things are going to be OK,” the mayor said. “'We're going to help your child out, we're going to help your family member out,' and that's what Gándara does here.”

Speaking with WAMC, program manager Cindy Stovall explained that while the Gaucher Street facility had been an ideal location, the growing size of Gándara’s mission, including counseling services and resources for young families, called for a bigger space.

"When we had the opportunity, Lois Nesci, the CEO of Gandara, found space to move down here on Main Street - we felt that it would afford us the opportunity to serve more families in need, as well as the families in the Mason Square area," Stovall said.

She described how through evidence-based programs such as “Nurturing Fathers” and “Parenting Journey,” Gándara has been a welcoming space for residents of all ages and backgrounds.

Stovall also highlighted the food pantry services being offered to a number of families each week.

"We have a food pantry here and we serve over a hundred families every week with food that's donated from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and our partnering agencies,” she said. “I am so proud of that - with food insecurities and the price of food rising, it's much needed here."

The new facility is not far from the center’s corporate headquarters on East Columbus Avenue, which had its own ribbon-cutting two years ago. The cost of the Main Street location was not disclosed.