Hispanic Heritage Month: Casa ALBA Melanie’s new Executive Director continues legacy

The non-profit, working with over 80 organizations to help local Hispanics and other minorities, was founded in 2011 by Fr. Ken DeGroot and Sr. Melanie Maczka.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 9:36 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Casa ALBA Melanie now has a board of directors representing Bolivia, Chile, Puerto Rico and Mexico. The latter, given a voice by the new executive director, Amanda Garcia.

“‘Casa’ can actually mean ‘house,’ or it can mean ‘home.’ So for us, it very much means home,” said Amanda Garcia, the executive director of Casa ALBA Melanie.

The non-profit has grown to be a resource center, working with over 80 organizations to help Hispanics and other minorities find housing, jobs, education, legal documentation attorneys and more.

It was founded in 2011 by Father Ken DeGroot and Sister Melanie Maczka.

The beloved pillars of the Hispanic community retired earlier this year and said they’re proud of their work but there’s still more that needs to get done.

During their farewell fiesta, they told Action 2 News they have all the confidence in the new executive director to carry on their legacy.

“Their intention from the beginning with starting Casa ALBA Melanie was that one day it would be run by Latinos and for Latinos,” said Garcia.

Garcia is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Mexico.

“My parents’ story is very much like many immigrant stories. They came to the U.S. in search of a better life and search of more opportunities. In particular, they wanted education for their children, which is me and my siblings,” said Garcia.

This is a full-circle moment. Garcia says her parents met Father Ken and Sister Melanie years before Casa ALBA Melanie was founded.

“That made all the difference. I think if they wouldn’t have had that experience, where they are now would be a very, very different place,” said Garcia.

Garcia wants to offer that life-changing opportunity to others starting all over again, working to live the “American Dream.”

“We really want Casa ALBA to become a hub for other organizations, other Latino-led initiatives, other Latino-led programs, other Latino-focused non-profits that will work closer with Casa ALBA to better serve our community,” said Garcia.

Her vision: to help more newcomers feel at home.

“I always say having a sense of community and having a sense of belonging is crucial to where you’re living, because if you don’t feel those two things, you’re not likely to stay very long,” said Garcia.

Casa ALBA Melanie is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and its 10-year anniversary on October 1. The free event is from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 314 S. Madison St. in Green Bay. The public is invited to attend. There will be music, food, family activities and more information on Hispanic Heritage Month.