Home Local News “Evening of Dreaming:” Centro Hispano announces $2.5 M gift from Ascendium for...

“Evening of Dreaming:” Centro Hispano announces $2.5 M gift from Ascendium for its new building


Centro Hispano of Dane County kicked off its public fundraising campaign at its annual “Evening of Dreaming” event on Wednesday night by announcing that it has received a $2.5 million gift from Ascendium Education Group for Campaign CENTRO for the non-profit’s new two-story, 25,000-square-foot home at the corner of Hughes Place and Cypress Way.

The news delivered to hundreds gathered at the organization’s “community picnic” came in tandem with another announcement: Campaign CENTRO is now looking to raise $20 million to build a new home for the Latinx community on Madison’s south side, which is $5 million more than its original $15 million goal.

“It’s been a long journey for something that we’ve all wanted for a long time and the community is very deserving of just having a space that honors the work where they can be and breathe and feel respected,” Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menéndez Coller told Madison365 at the event. “So, today, it’s about celebrating that in a very community-oriented way. So I’m really happy.”

Centro is the leading organization serving the Latinx community in Dane County. Core program areas include youth programs, workforce development, family wrap-around support, and community engagement. At the event, Centro publicly kicked off campaign CENTRO and shared the latest artist renderings and updates of the new building from EUA architects.

“It’s a great night to just hang out in South Madison, honestly. I’m so happy just to spend time with so many people I haven’t seen in a long time,” Menéndez Coller said.

The greater Madison community came out for Centro Hispano’s “Evening of Dreaming” Sept. 28.

“The staff and the board at Centro … everybody is excited about the new building,” she added. “We’ve been planning it for a while and have been seizing all of the opportunities and have really been enjoying all the different friends and relationships that we’ve developed. So it’s been fun.”

Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menéndez Coller speaks to the crowd gathered at “Evening of Dreaming.” on Sept. 28 at Centro Hispano.

The highlight of the event was the announcement of a $2.5 million gift from Ascendium for Campaign CENTRO.

“There’s a lot of wonderful people here today. There are a lot of wonderful people around this community who are working to make this happen. We’re well on our way to our $20 million goal to build this amazing space that you see to create a safe home for all of our people,” said Nancy Francisco-Welke, Centro Hispano board of directors president. “And now I’d like to share with you another very exciting announcement: Ascendium has committed $2.5 million to our capital campaign and we are now at $15 million of our $20 million goal.”

Ascendium Education Group is a leading postsecondary education philanthropy and a provider of solutions to support academic achievement, long-term financial wellness and student loan repayment success.

“Ascendium values the support Centro has provided to Dane County’s Latinx population over the decades,” says Amy Kerwin, Ascendium’s vice president of education philanthropy, in a statement. “With our shared focus on education and workforce training, we’re looking forward to seeing how Centro’s new space creates opportunities for expanded programming and continued community growth.”

Artist renderings of Centro Hispano’s new two-story, 25,000-square-foot home at the corner of Hughes Place and Cypress Way. (EUA)

The “Evening of Dreaming” event is an annual fundraiser for Centro Hispano and was the first big in-person event the organization has held in a while due to the pandemic. It was essentially what Centro labeled a “community picnic” and attendees were treated to delicious food and live music and a variety of activities including tie dying, face-painting, arts and crafts, an oral history project, and more — all hosted by Centro Hispano staff and volunteers.

“This is a gathering of joy and celebration,” Menéndez Coller told the crowd. “This is a time to celebrate who we have been as an agency, who we are as an agency and the kind of agency that we’re going to become. I know it’s incredibly fun to talk to each other and see each other but also take some time to engage with all the different activities that are on the perimeter. They’re intentional. The people that are doing them are there for a reason. Talk to them, ask them why they remain committed to Centro — share your stories and really give feedback and input.”

Centro now sees upward of 7,000 individuals each year and offers more than 10,000 hours of programming annually. The organization will celebrate its 40 years in 2023 and hopes to complete its campaign CENTRO by the end of this year so it can focus on celebrating its anniversary and the grand opening of its new facility.