'Immigrants and locals together'

Comunidad lands grant money to focus on immigrant integration

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Educating and uniting the community.

Those are the missions behind an upcoming planning series focused on immigration integration, said Summer Laws, director of Comunidad Integrada.

"It's about how we're going to bring immigrants and locals together," Laws said Thursday. "It involves both sides meeting each other in the middle."

The Colorado Trust -- a grant-making foundation dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of residents statewide -- announced Wednesday that it will distribute roughly $4.5 million to nine communities seeking to strengthen immigrant integration.

Moffat and Routt counties were one of the nine, and have been awarded an initial $10,000. Comunidad Integrada, which serves both counties, will manage the money allocated to the counties.

The initial offering is seed money for Comunidad to organize forums and discussion sessions in Craig, Hayden and Steamboat Springs. From those sessions, slated to begin in January 2007, the group will build an integration plan tailored to communities along the U.S. Highway 40 corridor.

The plan, which will be developed in the next six to eight months, then makes Moffat and Routt counties eligible to receive $75,000 per year for the next four years, or $300,000 total.

Laws said steering committees have been developed for both counties, and that Comunidad is looking for upwards of 100 people to participate in forum sessions.

"The idea is that we'll come up with ideas of what all of our community thinks on how we can bring people together," she said.

On Monday and Tuesday, representatives from Comunidad attended a grantee orientation, where they learned from 10 other previously awarded communities about their experiences in developing an integration immigration plan.

"It was nice to hear from someone who's done it before," Laws said.

Comunidad conducted a similar series of forums two years ago in Hayden. Areas of concern that arose from the series were education, direct service needs, and more accelerated and advanced English classes.

Other recipients of Colorado Trust grant money are: city and county of Denver, cities of Greeley and Evans, Commerce City, La Plata County, Montrose and Delta counties, Aurora, San Luis Valley and Telluride region.

The Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning will manage the immigration integration initiative and provide technical assistance, said Christie McElhinney, of The Colorado Trust.

"That organization manages this grant and will provide a lot of hands on assistance," McElhinney said.

Laws said the forums will be successful if ideas are broached that results in "seeing immigrants as community members."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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