Holy Cross Ministries celebrates 25 years of service | ParkRecord.com

Holy Cross Ministries celebrates 25 years of service

Holy Cross Ministries CEO Emmie Gardner, center, is flanked by the nonprofit's Parents as Teachers Program coordinator Lizeette Zurita to the left and its School Readiness Program coordinator Miriam Garcia on the right. Holy Cross Ministries celebrates 25 years of connecting underserved members of the community to health, education and social resources.
Courtesy of Holy Cross Ministries

For information about Holy Cross Ministries, visit hcmutah.org.

Holy Cross Ministries has reached its silver age.

The nonprofit that helps underserved members of the community by connecting them with health, education and social resources and services is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and CEO Emmie Gardner is thrilled.

“It’s been amazing to see this nonprofit weather the storms with growth, expansion, retraction and expansion over the years,” said Gardner, who became CEO in 2018. “It has truly been a humble honor and privilege to lead this amazing organization over the past two years, and to see what our organization has done.”

Holy Cross Ministries, which is built on the foundation laid down by two Sisters of the Holy Cross who arrived in Utah in 1875 to establish a hospital for injured miners and railroad workers, is set on three pillars — health, justice and education, according to Gardner.

We want to show how critical our immigrant population is in our service industry in the Wasatch Back…” Emmie Gardner, Holy Cross Ministries CEO

The health category includes providing counseling by bilingual and bicultural licensed clinical social workers for victims of crimes, and the promotora outreach program.

Holy Cross Ministries offers four promotoras — bilingual, bicultural outreach workers — who work with low-income clinics to teach prenatal health classes and provide case management, support groups, health access, referral and translation services, she said.

The justice aspect is centered around a legal immigration program that helps immigrant families through consultation, legal support and citizenship services, according to Gardner.

The education branch of Holy Cross Ministries include Parents as Teacher program, guiding good choices workshop, English proficiency summer camp and the school readiness program, she said.

The school readiness program, which is akin to preschool, is offered to 3- and 4-year-olds from immigrant families.

“We wanted to work with these children so they have the best start they can so when they join elementary school with their English-speaking peers they are on the same level and able to thrive,” Gardner said.

Miriam Garcia started working at Holy Cross Ministries 10 years ago and has seen it grow, change and modify to fit the needs of the community.

“When I first started working at Holy Cross Ministries, we saw the need for early education,” said Garcia, who has been with the nonprofit for 15 years. “So we began to hold groups in various apartments in Park City.”

Garcia would recruit students by visiting stores that specialized in serving the local Latino community.

“I would go to Anaya’s Market and places like that to ask parents if their children would be interested in learning about school,” she said. “That’s how we started.”

Shortly after Garcia began holding classes in people’s homes, Sister Mary Ann Pajakowski and Father Bob Bussen, who were at St. Mary’s Catholic Church at the time, offered Garcia a classroom to continue the program.

“We provided these children a class with a curriculum taught by teachers who not only provided basic skills, but also the social-emotional peace, which is important to these families,” Garcia said. “These classes gave these children the confidence of understanding the language. So by the time they began to attend Park City schools, they were ready and didn’t feel they were at such a disadvantage among the kids who were able to pay for preschool or private schools.”

The program also helped kindergarten teachers, according to Garcia.

“After these children went through the school readiness program, they were prepared for kindergarten, and the teachers didn’t have to worry about how to communicate with these children, or whether or not they would have to spend half the year working with them on basic social skills,” she said.

Garcia also partners with local arts organizations, such as Arts-Kids, on extra-curricular programs that help children develop self-confidence and self-esteem.

“These organizations work with us free of charge, and expose the kids to programs they may not otherwise have the opportunity to do so,” she said. “In return, we give these organizations opportunities to become more known in the community.”

Throughout the past 25 years, Holy Cross Ministries’ has forged ongoing partnerships with the Christian Center of Park City, Jewish Family Service, People’s Health Clinic, Peace House and the Park City Education Foundation, which all serve as resources for the immigrant community, Gardner said.

“We are about empowering and helping the immigrant community so they can find their voices and become valuable contributors to the community,” Gardner said. “We want to show how critical our immigrant population is in our service industry in the Wasatch Back.”

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