Hammonton’s Call to Collaboration (C2C) helped foster cross-cultural connections while also sparking the meteoric rise of a local Latina nonprofit leader.
During Hammonton’s C2C in 2016, nonprofit leaders, small business owners, residents, students, and restaurateurs saw a cross-cultural connection in many of the conversations. More specifically, Ivette Guillermo-McGahee, Founder of Hammonton’s Allies in Caring (a mental and behavioral health service organization serving the Deaf, Spanish- and English-speaking population) capitalized on the sentiments expressed during the C2C and organized a Posada — a multicultural event designed to foster curiosity, openness, tolerance and unity, and bring together the Latinx and White communities. It was a tremendous success and was offered again the following year.
In 2017, Gathering Ground invited Ivette to share her story of relationship and cross-cultural community building during our annual summit which attracts changemakers, organizers, and leaders of all kinds from throughout New Jersey. This opportunity connected Ivette to Earl Jackson, an architect, who was inspired by Ivette and Allies in Caring’s impact in the community. This encounter yielded a strong working relationship between Ivette and Earl; he subsequently joined the Allies in Caring Board of Directors, and contributed his
architectural expertise to help plan for and design a permanent home for Allies in Caring. Gathering Ground also facilitated the connection between Allies and Caring and New Jersey Community Capital, who subsequently provided the financing that helped Allies in Caring purchase and renovate a new building.
Ivette’s leadership role in the community continued to grow, and with a Culture of Health grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ivette founded the Hammonton Health Coalition, along with Cassie Iacovelli from MainStreet Hammonton, Jim Donio, and other partners. This work restores a sense of connectedness, beginning with the Latinx community; and amplifies and strengthens the early bridges built during the 2016 Call to Collaboration.
In 2021, Allies in Caring celebrated the opening of its new Con- Vivir Wellness Hub — a permanent home from which to serve Hammonton.
In a few short years, Allies in Caring’s visibility and impact in South Jersey expanded — and became a unifying and transformational force for serving and connecting the Latinx, Deaf/hard of hearing and White communities, centering the value and importance of the Latinx community to the whole of community life in Hammonton.