Bishop Garmendia and Mr. James P. McLaughlin
The Resource Center
Founded March 6, 1990, by Bishop Francisco Garmendia (then Vicar of the South Bronx). As a pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Church — and the first Hispanic priest of the South Bronx — he was an important pillar and vital part in the rise and growth of the community.
The Resource Center was Bishop Garmendia’s vision to help fill the void that was left from the strained city and state budgets in providing programs that would empower and lift up the people of the South Bronx. Programs varied throughout the years — including home health aide trainings, ESL classes, math lessons, basketball camps, and house cleaning trainings — to help those who were underserved. No matter the services provided, the organization always challenged itself to evolve alongside of the community and stay in touch with its changing and growing needs. Bishop Garmendia served in a way that made The Resource Center a beacon for all who came.
Tragedy Ignites The HopeLine
On March 25, 1990, one of the worst acts of arson occurred just steps away from the bishop’s church. Just weeks after the official incorporation of the resource center, 87 people were killed by the reckless act of a disgruntled boyfriend whose girlfriend was one of the few survivors. Nearly all of the victims of the Happy Land Social Club fire were immigrants who struggled with language barriers when accessing resources. It was in direct response to this fire that The HopeLine was established. Born out of the ever-pressing need for mainly immigrants to have a place to call for help, The HopeLine became a referral line to connect more people directly to the services they really needed to live better lives. The HopeLines was at first an extension of the Resource Center, but soon became the name it is known by today. For those that spoke Spanish, it is “La Linea de la Esperenza” — but even they call it simply HopeLine.
The HopeLine Today
Through the years, The HopeLine continues to evolve and grow to become a staple in the South Bronx, transitioning into two core areas of service — family assistance and adult learning. Both core programs have included various services at different periods of time but both were established with the mission to intervene in the cycle of poverty by meeting the basic needs of disadvantaged families and helping empower those living in the South Bronx to become more self-sufficient and upwardly mobile.