NHL and CDC Foundations Team Up with Pittsburgh Organization to Support Latino Families

Like many Americans, Lucy Aviles of Mount Oliver, PA, found herself dodging increasingly difficult challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. The stay-at-home Mom of three told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in April that her partner was laid off from his restaurant job, and that she’d struggled to afford internet service for her kids’ virtual schooling. But Aviles and her family faced more obstacles than most.

What if English was your second language, and the masking and mitigation information you’re relying on to keep you and your loved ones safe was difficult to find and poorly translated? Then imagine having no one to turn to and no idea where to go for help, and you can begin to feel the kind of frustration and fear that Aviles and others across the country may have been experiencing as the pandemic took hold.

The Latino Community Center provides culturally-appropriate food baskets to Allegheny County families in need.

With help from the NHL and CDC Foundations, the Latino Community Center provides support to Pittsburgh families during the COVID-19 crisis.

The LCC is helping their community members get COVID-19 vaccinations.

Thankfully, the Latino Community Center (LCC), the National Hockey League (NHL) Foundation and the CDC Foundation were there to assist. The nonprofit LCC has been providing a variety of educational, social and other supportive services to their Latino neighbors in Allegheny County since 2017. When COVID-19 hit, “we had families who all of a sudden, couldn’t get food, couldn’t get access to basic needs,” said Angelica Perry, the center’s director of development and communications.

And that’s where the LCC’s mission dovetailed with that of the CDC Foundation. Early in 2020, the CDC Foundation implemented a plan to help the COVID-19 response by hiring more than 700 public health workers to aid health departments across the country, as well as reaching out to numerous community-based organizations (CBOs) to offer advice, connections and information—otherwise known as capacity building and technical support— hat could have an immediate impact on local neighborhoods and disproportionately-affected populations. Part of that important initiative was producing a website and a series of webinars that provided action steps and other resources to groups like the Latino Community Center, then following up directly to see if those who’d attended could use further assistance in dealing with the pandemic.

We were so excited to get the NHL Foundation grant. It really met some critical immediate needs, and the speed with which the Foundation was able to pull together that funding and get it to us was tremendously impactful.

CDC Foundation CBO technical assistance officer Andrea Malloy contacted Alyssa Giron, LCC’s director of family services, to assess their situation. “I asked how things have changed for their organization under COVID, whether they’d had to pivot to a different type of mission and what they’re looking for most in terms of improving their ability to meet the needs of the people they serve.” Giron recalled that conversation well. “From there, our relationship with the CDC Foundation really got going with a ton of momentum.”

The first, most pressing need for the Latino Community Center was information in Spanish. Said Perry, “That was a big gap in our region having those accessible materials.” Malloy was able to help. “A lot of our capacity building and technical support was connecting them to communication materials.”

The LCC, like many community-based organizations, are also in need of funding to address their neighborhood issues. So when Malloy discovered that CDC Foundation partner the National Hockey League (NHL) Foundation was seeking to support communities in their franchise cities, she was able to recommend the LCC, who applied for and received the award. “We were so excited to get the NHL grant,” said Perry. “It really met some critical immediate needs, and the speed with which the Foundation was able to pull together that funding and get it to us was tremendously impactful.”

The team at the Latino Community Center serves Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

The NHL Foundation provided funds to the Latino Community Center to develop targeted messaging.

The LCC put a four-part plan into action in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ hometown:

  1. Providing emergency food assistance and beyond. “While we were distributing baskets, we were also signing our families up for benefits they might be eligible for to prevent food insecurity in the future,” explained Perry.
  2. Conducting a survey to identify specific concerns around COVID-19. “As one of the only Latinx-serving providers in our region, we are a trusted source of information,” Perry said. “We wanted to find out how best to tailor our communications to address those issues.” The LCC also began a community healthcare worker program, along with a grassroots campaign to get Latinos in the region ready for the vaccine rollout. “We really wanted to get those discussions started in Spanish to dispel myths about the vaccine.”
  3. Arranging rides to COVID-19 testing and healthcare, which removed significant barriers for those seeking help.
  4. Setting up a financial assistance fund. “Families who were continuing to experience economic blowback from the pandemic had some funding available to meet urgent needs like rent, utilities, medical bills, things like that,” explained Perry.

The NHL Foundation is glad to have been able to help: “It’s wonderful to see the amazing work the LCC has done,” said Kim Davis, NHL senior executive vice president of social impact, growth initiatives & legislative affairs. “The NHL often talks about how it’s committed to helping to build healthy and vibrant communities, and it’s organizations like the LCC who bring that to life, making a meaningful impact on those who need it most.”

And the LCC is helping more community members than they ever thought they could reach. “We were designing a program to serve 100 families per year. And here we are, with five times that number,” said Giron. They’ve also been successful with their vaccine outreach. As of July 2021, 461 individuals out of 1,100 associated with the organization have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s a rate of 41%, compared to 6% of the Latino population vaccinated statewide.

“The CDC Foundation was one of the first to jump in and help us with this initiative, and it's been a really wonderful relationship,” raves Perry.



This article is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $68,939,536 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government.