The Cuba Cultural Center
After approximately two years of diligent organizational effort, Cuba Cultural Center, Inc. (The Center) opened its doors in 2010. Our Executive Director, Suzanne Flierl Krull, is a co-founder who brought 30 years of assistance to marginalized families through informal volunteer service opportunities in various faith communities. Our first programs included a small, independent food pantry and a community meal program (soup kitchen). Our pantry has grown exponentially since 2010, having served over 1600 different families from the area, and our services have expanded to include survival programs, advocacy, and justice work.
The Center provides for the temporal, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people of Allegany and Cattaraugus counties, NY. We fulfill that mission by promoting the concerns of our clients and other community members, providing for a variety of needs, and empowering people to advocate on their own behalf.
The Center’s survival programs assist families as they struggle to provide the basic needs of their families. Our small food pantry has grown into a multifaceted nutrition center, offering the community meal program, emergency food boxes, a summer feeding program in Cuba, and a Backpack weekend feeding program for a small number of children in the Belfast, Cuba, and Friendship school systems. We offer trauma and suicide bereavement support groups. We set up a community garden to increase the availability of fresh produce in our pantry, as well as a farmers’ and artisans’ market which accepts SNAP benefits. Our bicycle program was added to provide exercise and entertainment for children in our communities. After an apartment complex fire which left 16 families in Cuba homeless in 2011, we became a service unit extension of the Salvation Army. As a non – proselytizing, benevolence providing unit, we continue to alleviate poverty and homelessness by providing assistance with rent, utilities, shelter and other basic needs.
Our advocacy work began shortly after we opened our doors. We serve on the Allegany County Food and Suicide Prevention Coalitions, the Allegany County Housing and Homelessness Task Force, and work collaboratively with a host of area partners. Our Executive Director serves on the board of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, as well as on the NY-501 Regional Continuum of Care for HUD planning purposes. In the fall of 2016, the justice component of our work was formalized. We support the work of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and our Executive Director serves on the Co-ordinating Committee for the campaign in New York State. This movement is working to combat the injustices of systemic racism, systemic poverty, militarism and the war economy and ecological devastation.We regularly join anti-poverty advocates at state and national conferences and participate in meeting with elected officials to advocate for the survival and justice needs of our communities. A full list of our collaborative partners is available upon request.
Since 2015, The Center has been working to improve our trauma informed and trauma sensitive approaches to service. Trauma Informed Care (TIC) was the topic of our Executive Director’s Masters Thesis, and she is also a graduate of the University of Buffalo Department of Sociology’s Trauma Champion training program. In the spring of 2019, The Center will undertake a major project to make the organization more sensitive to the core components of TIC, as well as bring TIC trainings to the staff, administrators, and volunteers of many organizations in Allegany County.
Governance & Funding
The Center started with an organizing board of five (5) members. Three of those original members still serve the Center in this capacity, and we’ve increased the size of our governing body to seven (7) members. We’ve been working to diversify the board, in order to make it more representative of the people we serve, and three of our board members have been, or are currently participants of some of our programs.
Our Executive Director was a non-paid position until 2013. Since then, the position has been a stipended one. All other staff, administrators, and service providers serve in volunteer positions. Many of them are poor or otherwise oppressed individuals providing for their neighbors as well as for their own households. We are a Jobtrak work site and have several work crews from the local Rehabilitation Center and 6-1-1 program at the Cuba Rushford School System. While it is a goal of ours to be able to hire several full-time employees in the future, and to fully fund a salary for our Executive Director, our experience over the past 8 years has proven that the people who struggle with poverty and injustice are kind, generous folks who are happy and willing to give to their community by volunteering at the Center. In many ways, this makes The Center unique in its approach to service provision.
In 2015, The Center assumed ownership of the building in which we have been housed since the summer of 2012. We are delighted by the fact that we own the building without a mortgage or any purchase related debt.
Much of our income is provided through grant opportunities. To date, we have received annual grants from the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program to help purchase food and equipment and provide some assistance with utilities. We’ve also received past grant monies from the Renodin Foundation and the United Way, as well as from Hunger Free America. Local donations have been minimal in past years, but we are very proud of our ability to work with 90% of our annual assets coming from InKind Donations. We recently established a fundraising plan which we hope will increase that funding stream. Our new Executive Administrative Assistance has experience with both fundraising and grant writing, and we’re confident that she’ll be a great asset to the organization in this area.
Our work has received recognition for our service to the community by both the Cuba Chamber of Commerce and Congressman Tom Reed. We’re thankful for the work of our great team, which is fully responsible for earning the honor they so rightfully deserve.
Over the past 8 years, The Center has become a fixture of the anti-poverty work in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties, NY. We are respected by our collaborative partners, as well as by the clients we serve. We look forward to strong, ongoing relationships with our current partners, as well as to building new relationships with new colleagues in anti-poverty and justice work. We hope enhance the vibrancy and diversity of our revenue streams, and to expanding our local, regional, state, and national advocacy and justice work.