Twelve years ago, América Gruner struggled along friends and neighbors to have elected officials and leaders listen to their requests in Dalton, Georgia. The demand for workers that existed during the 1980s economic boom, that lead carpet mills to aggressively recruit Latino workers had slowed down and while it was clear that in a few years, the majority of students at Dalton High School High School would be Hispanic, our community seemed invisible to many.
América, decided to spring into action. In 2006, she registered 130 citizens to vote in the election. One year later, she had registered 200 additional voters. Since then, América and the Coalition of Latino Leaders (CLILA) in Dalton, has become the “anchor organization” in Whitfield County providing not only English classes, civics classes, civic participation education, legal services, and after-school programs; CLILA has also lead the local community in advocacy and organizing, participating and testifying in front of the board of regents to provide access to Dalton State College to undocumented students, hosting town hall meetings to discuss legislation, advocated for DACA and joined local, state and national efforts for inclusion of Latino voices and contributions in decision-making.
América and her team, all volunteers, have been a steadfast presence in Dalton and have the respect of the local small business community as well as the local media, police and education leaders. While financially struggling, their office is truly a community center, providing one-on-one assistance to individuals and families, hosting gatherings and designing cultural events like “Festival Del Sabor” attended by approximately 4,000 individuals just a couple of weeks ago, and meeting with law enforcement agencies that credit CLILA for liaising with the community and improving relationships.
Truly a grassroots organization, serving a community that comprises 48% of the total population in Dalton (according to the 2010 US Census), CLILA is at the heart of representation and change, and América and her team are the leaders that have been working and representing the community for over a decade.
It is time corporations, businesses, individuals, move to support the work CLILA has been doing for twelve years in a city with a vibrant and hard-working Latino community supporting with their talent and labor the floor-covering manufacturing industry (producing carpet, rugs and vinyl flooring) that makes Dalton the “Carpet Capital of the World”.
We, at the Latino Community Fund are proud to stand with CLILA and support their incredible work.
2818 E Walnut Avenue
Dalton, GA 30721