Mobile Farmer's Market Helping the Hispanic Community

With the help of Beet Box volunteers, Puentes de Esperanza: Bridges of Hope is providing healthy options, social opportunity, and something the community can look forward to. Puentes uses the ecologically-oriented CARE principle by meeting our Hispanic community members where they are physically and situationally.

Since the start of last summer, Puentes de Esperanza has partnered with the Land of Goshen Community Market located in Edwardsville, IL. Through this partnership, the community served by Puentes can receive fresh produce from local farmers at a low cost. The volunteers of the Goshen Community Market drive to Fairmont City the “Beet Box.” This food truck attracts the attention of the community, and the word is spread on produce being sold. The members of the community can walk down the street from their homes to choose their produce. Clients can choose from a variety of vegetables, fruits, and nonperishable items to take home for 25 cents. Everyone in the community is welcome to choose their own produce.

Famer’s markets have increasingly become a staple in most towns, and they continue to expand as years go by. With the use of the Beet Box, the community of Fairmont City can have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, without having to travel far. In Fairmont City there are not many grocery stores that can provide fresh produce. This results in members of the community turning to unhealthy options of food. Within the Hispanic culture, many individuals from their country of origin are used to choosing their own produce and knowing how fresh it is. In most Hispanic countries the use of mercados is an essential part of living. Mercado in English means market. Mercados are not just a place where people buy and sell produce, but they also provide a place where social events occur. They bring joy and liveliness to a community and create a sense of belonging.

Farmworkers In the United States contribute to the production and distribution of crops. They play a key part in the nation’s economy. Migrant farmworkers have helped feed America and have faced obstacles throughout the years. At times, when people grocery shop, they seldom forget the backstory behind the farmworkers who work long hours to provide us with produce. Within the Puentes family there are many migrant farmworkers who work long hours in the fields to provide for their families. The clients even think of Puentes and if produce is in abundance, they bring them some as well. Team members have been happy going home with fresh corn to enjoy with their own families. Puentes de Esperanza is thankful for the clients they serve and continues to support them and provide resources to better suit their family needs.

With the help of Beet Box, they proudly can continue to provide produce and something to look forward to for the community. They also take into consideration the opinions of the clients and look for more produce available that they may prefer. Mothers of the families are thankful that they do not have to leave their homes to buy produce but rather can get it at a low cost right outside their doors. Puentes de Esperanza will hope to continue to continue this partnership for years to come and continue to expand their resources.

Learn more about our Hispanic community support here:

Health Navigators

Puentes de Esperanza | Health Navigators

2020 brought many challenges to the entire world. Across our organization we have discovered new ways to communicate and support our clients. Hoyleton seized the opportunity to show our clients they are not alone, regardless of current circumstances. The Puentes de Esperanza staff was remarkable in responding to the changes and moved forward to assist those in need during these unprecedented times 

This year, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) piloted a program to assist those in minority and underserved communities across the state. The Public Health and Health Navigator Project is funded by the State of Illinois and is segmented by regions as defined by COVID-19 guidelinesPuentes de Esperanza serves several minority and underserved communities in the Region 4 area. There are several key objectives for the program including, but not limited to healthy lifestyle education, COVID-19 safety, assisting with communication with health care providers where there may be a language barrier or income-related challenges. 

Funding from the Health Navigator program allowed  25 program participants from the Hispanic community to partner with the Puentes de Esperanza team to provide health education and COVID-19 related needs to the Spanish speaking community. While these Health Navigators are not directly employed by Puentes de Esperanza, they do work very closely with our team member Jovany Otero, one of Hoyleton/Puentes de Esperanza’s Bi-lingual Family and Community Advocates. 

Through the Health Navigator program, Puentes de Esperanza has been able to reach over 3000 individuals in the Region 4 area alone. These Navigators took part in distributing PPE in rural areas and during food drives. Participants have also developed videos and flyers for distribution throughout the community. The Navigators have provided information and activities beyond COVID-19 prevention and have shared information about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining mental health.  

Erika Hernandez, one of the Navigators states “...I am excited to have the opportunity to collaborate and be part of a team in which I can contribute all my knowledge and, at the same time, help people within our community. Personally, I feel that it helps me to stay informed of what is happening as well as in the aspect of mental and emotional health, which I can use for the well-being of my family.”  

It is through partnerships such as the one we have with IDHS and the Pandemic Health Navigators that we are able to continue serving those in our community and work toward equal and fair access to services across the local community and state. 

For more information on Puentes de Esperanza or Hoyleton, please visit us online at 

Funding provided in whole or in part by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Welcoming Centers for Refugee and Immigrant Services. 

Bridges of Hope • Puentes de Esperanza

Building a Bridge to Financial Help for Hispanic Families During COVID-19

This year has been difficult for families across southern Illinois and across the nation. With continued job loss and lower wages in highly affected industries like food and service, people are going through hardships to make ends meet. Luckily, they have some assistance through unemployment benefits and federal stimulus programs.

Now imagine yourself in this position as an immigrant or refugee with limited English proficiency. You are still new to the United States and because of your status, you are unable to receive the same assistance as others in your community.

There are many residents in southern Illinois that fall within this underserved population that are in need of the very basics to get through the pandemic. Luckily, Puentes de Esperanza (Bridges of Hope), a program developed by Illinois South Conference (United Church of Christ) and Hoyleton, can assist with the COVID-19 Housing and Utility Assistance program.

A bridge to hope

Puentes de Esperanza was founded in 2004 to bridge Spanish-speaking neighbors to resources that improve the quality of their lives. The program was developed after the Illinois South Conference (United Church of Christ) and Hoyleton recognized the lack of bilingual services available for the growing Hispanic population in the region.

Over the years, the program has brought valuable resources and assistance to many families to help them establish citizenship, build a family, find employment and more.

Providing assistance during pandemic hardships

The COVID-19 Housing and Utility Assistance program is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services, and offers financial assistance to immigrants, refugees and LEP (limited English proficient) individuals by paying rent, mortgage and/or utility bills during the crisis.

Eligible households (in Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair counties), who did not receive a stimulus check, unemployment or other form of relief, can receive up to $5,000 in housing and utility assistance, or no more than three months of assistance.

“The help Puentes has provided us has helped my family a lot. Financially, we have been behind since my husband is not working, and it has avoided our bills to go to collections.” - Female, age 27

“With utility companies and landlords starting to send shut off and eviction notices, this funding is vital to the livelihood of so many Hispanic families in our southern Illinois communities,” says Kristen Shinn, . “It is also imperative for those with school children who are studying virtually and need internet assistance.”

“Puentes has helped me a lot! They have helped me with my bills, and it has helped me not get behind.” - Female, age 26

How to request for assistance

The goal of the program is to assist 75 families with assistance. If you or someone you know are experiencing hardships during the pandemic and have not received financial assistance, please reach out as soon as possible to the following phone number:  618-398-0557

Please leave a message, and someone will return your call quickly to help you determine if you are eligible for this program assistance. If you are not eligible, they can refer you to another agency that might be able to help.

This is a time to come together and help our neighbors in need. To learn more about this program and how Hoyleton helps the Hispanic community in southern Illinois, please visit:

Combating domestic violence in the Hispanic community

Each year, the United States brings awareness to domestic violence in October. In 2020, the report of abuse incidents has decreased dramatically due to the COVID-19 health crisis and lack of visually seeing others. Even as lockdown restrictions reduce, the cases of domestic violence do not simply end. It remains a critical time for many, especially for Hispanic families who often reside in underserved communities. 

Bringing passion to Hoyleton's purpose

Jackie Chacon moved from El Paso, TX, to southern Illinois in 2019 to join her husband. She had worked at a shelter for undocumented minors and knew she wanted to continue helping those in need. Jackie found a role at Hoyleton Youth & Family Services as a Bilingual Family and Community Advocate. "It was important to me to stay in the nonprofit field so I could support those who sometimes feel that they have none," says Jackie. "With a large Hispanic population in southern Illinois, I knew I could help make a difference in others' lives."

As an advocate, she supports Spanish-speaking residents with everything from making appointments and setting up bank accounts to educating them on community programs and health issues. "I'm basically like a personal assistant helping guide them through tasks that seem simple to those who speak English," says Jackie. "But for those who don't, it can be difficult to navigate these things, so I'm here to help be an interpreter and guide for them."

Supporting victims of domestic violence

When it comes to domestic violence, Jackie is typically the first to speak to Latinas and help them file protection orders. "I will go with them to the courthouse to file and wait with them," says Jackie. "If approved, we work with them on the next steps. If denied, we will assist with getting a lawyer."

Jackie also works within Hoyleton to help with any other support the women might need, whether with locating shelters, counseling, food, clothing, or other resources. "In the end, we will find a way to help them," she says.

Statistics show that one in three Latinas experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and 50% of those never report it. And as an extension of that, 15.5 million children live in U.S. homes where they have witnessed domestic violence. In 2020, those instances have only increased, and Jackie has seen first-hand the spike in cases recently.

"The number of women I help each month has doubled this year," she says. "It's difficult to see them have to go through this, but sadly, it is not uncommon for the Hispanic culture. Many women in Latino households are treated like maids and with little respect." 

Hoyleton works throughout the year to educate groups on domestic violence with topics ranging from healthy relationships to signs of abuse. These programs can be both in-person and virtually. "It's really about teaching them to respect themselves and knowing that they have someone there to reach out to," says Jackie. "We have a bilingual staff and can be that support they so desperately need during difficult times."

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please contact Hoyleton Youth & Family Services at (618) 398-0557 or learn more at 

To help further Hoyleton's mission and services, please visit

Hoyleton | Meet Puentes de Esperanza

Meet Puentes de Esperanza
Thursday, Sept 3, 2020

Hoyleton Youth and Family Services has been serving the community since 1895 and this year we celebrate 125 years in community service. Since Hoyleton’s inception as an orphanage it has been our mission to enable all people, young and old alike, to realize the wholeness of life that God intends. Since then, the culture of our community has changed, and therefore, the needs of the community have changed. Enter: Puentes de Esperanza.

Realizing the changing needs of our community and the continuing shift of culture, Hoyleton implemented the “Bridges of Hope” program, or more commonly known in the Latinx community as, Puentes de Esperanza. Since 2014, Puentes de Esperanza has been assisting those in Southern Illinois with several different socially based programs which focus on self-sufficiency. Puentes offers assistance to our southern neighbors by helping navigate through tough situations they may face while journeying through the citizenship process.

Many times individuals coming from other countries face uncertainty, fear of persecution, and anxiety of starting a new life in a foreign land. Puentes de Esperanza’s mission is to transform the lives of Latinx children and families in Southern Illinois through community-based ministries and serve. Programs such as the Fairmont City Welcome Center, Immigrant Family Resource program, Community Outreach, and Hoyleton’s translation services ensure these needs are able to be met. As truly a community program, all of these services operate through a combination of Puentes employees and community volunteers. Director, Kristen Shinn, states, “As the Director of Community Support Services, I have seen first-hand how Puentes assists clients in times of need. The Puentes team looks for new and creative ways to connect with families through technology and communication. We want our families to know that they are not alone and we care.”

• The Welcome Center, located in Fairmont City assists individuals and is a one-stop human services center that allows individuals to access services that may be difficult to obtain due to language barrier issues. 

• The Immigrant Family Resource program plays an integral role in assisting families to help them apply and receive human health services such as SNAP and Medicaid benefits. Other direction comes in the form of child care for working families and obtaining resources for entitled child support. 

• The Community Outreach program offers a variety of programs aimed at assisting Latinx immigrants overcome obstacles that may prevent or discourage them from receiving available benefits.

• The Puentes de Esperanza Translation Services have, and continue to provide migrant newcomers the ability to interact with iDCFS staff to report abuse or child neglect investigations.

One family that is very grateful for the role Puentes de Esperanza played in her life is Araceli Cruz.

“I was very appreciative  for the translation services and support I received. Puentes was there during a very tough time in our lives and very helpful in getting the assistance I really needed.” ~Araceli Cruz

She highly recommends anyone who may be in need of assistance and has difficulty navigating the English speaking centric social programs, should reach out to get help.

Puentes de Esperanza exists to make life easier for those coming to our community that may be anxious, fearful, or unsure of what next steps to take after arriving in our little part of the world. With a team dedicated to serving, Puentes can help comfort, support, and direct those seeking a better, more fulfilling life for themselves and their families. 

If you, a friend, or other loved ones are needing help, please reach out to us at 618.398.0557,, or on social media at 

We are always accepting volunteers.  All volunteer opportunities may be inquired about by contacting Meghan Murphy at or by calling 618-688-7092.


Hoyleton | World Day of Social Justice

"Hoyleton Youth and Family Services seeks to enable all people, young and old alike, to realize the wholeness of life that God intends. This will be accomplished with the compassion of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit reaching out to meet the physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social needs of those with whom we journey."

HYFS Mission Statement

On November 26, 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated the 20th of February, World Day of Social Justice. More than just mere observation, World Day of Social Justice brings together individuals, international organizations, and countries to move forward in protecting the rights and human dignity of individuals in a modern, global world. This year’s theme is Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice, which continues to shed light on the inequities that occur in an interdependent, global economy that affects the means of production, finance, trade, and migration.

The objective of the United Nations is a lofty one, but the use of the word social justice is also a loaded term. As individuals, we tend to analyze the phrase through the lenses of our own experiences, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and our religion. The phrase social justice can and does cause a strong emotional reaction that leaves individuals seeking refuge in their chosen tribes. To some individuals, social justice is a hand-up, equal access to means and opportunities. For others, social justice is the slippery slope to a handout, and a step away from socialism; two different schools of thought that lead to intractable stances and stifle dialogue.

While it is beneficial to discuss complex ideas on a global scale, most individuals are concerned with the social dynamics occurring within their communities, such as housing, access to quality food, adequate healthcare, and employment. At a fundamental level, individuals want to protect human rights and dignity for all, while striving for fairness. As an organization comprised of social workers, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services advocates for the wholeness of everyone within a community regardless of their circumstances.

Hoyleton's Mission Statement is not a reflection of political correctness, but of human compassion, coupled with building relationships and social networks that strengthen and uplift everyone within the community. Social workers are concerned with issues that hinder a person from achieving their maximum potential and solutions to removing social barriers. While social justice is a complex term to define and thus implement, its essence is enshrined in The Declaration of Independence. The preservation of the unalienable rights of an individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the security of those rights, serve as a foundation for furthering human rights for all individuals.

As individuals, let us not become fixated on defining what is or is not social justice, to the detriment of how we treat others, which is a reflection of ourselves. Instead, ponder the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

To support the movement that Hoyleton has created in helping individuals that need assistance, visit to see how we are supporting children and families and how you can help.

Puentes de Esperanza| Creating Christmas Memories

Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity to open our hearts and reach out to our neighbors. Puentes de Esperanza, translated Bridges of Hope, invited our Spanish-speaking neighbors to participate in the joy and festivities that surround Christmas. Hoyleton’s annual Puentes de Esperanza Christmas welcomed 58 families, 197 individuals, to St. John’s United Church of Christ in Collinsville, Illinois. The cheerful atmosphere set the mood and invited individuals in our Hispanic community to share in the festivities of the Christmas season. 

Hoyleton’s community partners, and volunteers, turned the church’s community space into a Christmas wonderland. Santa and his elves greeted families as they walked through the doors. Attendees were invited to take a picture with Santa and whisper their Christmas wish into his ear, hoping for a surprise on Christmas morning.  The dining tables were decorated with pine boughs and glass candle holders filled with bright red berries floating in the water. The evening featured delicious food from La Esqinita and desert from Avodah Management McDonald’s. Holiday crafts made sure each child had a Christmas ornament to hang on their tree at home. Fifty-eight families were gifted a laundry basket filled with food staples for holiday cooking. Seventy laundry baskets were prepared by the Place of Grace congregants, each containing cans of fruit, flour, beans, rice, canned vegetables, and more.  The evening drew to a close with a Christmas raffle and mitten giveaway to keep little hands warm.  

The event embodied the spirit of Christmas, a time for reflection, and building the bonds of brotherly love and friendship with our neighbors. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to new and old friends from Hoyleton Youth and Family Services. For information on Puentes de Esperanza events, call 618.688.4739.

*A special thank you to St. John’s UCC, La Esqinita, Santa and his elves, Place of Grace, The Woelffel, Chacon, Bittle, and Shinn families; Alliance Brothers Construction, Puentes & HYFS board members and staff, and Avodah Management McDonald’s.

National Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 – October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Here at Hoyleton Youth & Family Services, one of our points of pride is that we provide services to over 600 individuals plus their families each year in our Puentes de Esperanza program. So, in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we wanted to cover misconceptions that are often misunderstood.

Most of the families we serve in Puentes de Esperanza refer to themselves as Latino instead of Hispanic; that’s because Hispanic derives from the Spanish heritage whereas Latino refers to the Latin American cultures. Although a large majority of our families do speak Spanish, some have a dialect from other areas.

Kʼicheʼ (Quiché) is a Maya language of Guatemala, spoken by the Kʼicheʼ people of the central highlands. Kʼicheʼ is the second-most widely spoken language in the country.

Chatino is a group of indigenous Mesoamerican languages. These languages are natively spoken by individuals whose communities are located in the southern portion of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Miztico is from the Mixtec Indian Language and is an Oto-Manguean language of Mexico.

It is important to know the difference between language and dialect. For instance, St. Louis natives say “soda” and Chicago natives say “pop”. Although we are all referring to the same object, we use different verbiage to get the point across. You can go just about anywhere in the United States and different dialect will be spoken depending on the state. Although we are all speaking the same language, we may refer to the same things with different names. This also happens in other countries, which contributes to the difficulty level of moving to a country where they do not speak your primary language.

To put this into perspective, imagine being in a room full of lawyers where all they use is legal jargon; if you yourself aren’t a lawyer, this could be not only confusing – but also a bit intimidating. That is how those who don’t speak fluent English feel on a regular basis, which is why it is so important to be aware and patient with those who are trying their best to learn a new language.

The main objective of Puentes de Esperanza is to establish the goal of self-sufficiency. Due to the language barrier our clients face in living their day-to-day lives, they come to us in a state of desperation seeking help to adequately navigate the system. Then, we are able to provide clients with workshops that will transform them from being isolated from society, to exposing them to positive alternatives. Our workshop topics include: how to open a bank account, how to read and write, how to know what a healthy relationship looks like, etc. “Even if we only have a couple of people that come to our event, we still host them in hopes that they will share all the great information they learned with their friends and family,” said Jovany, Bilingual Family and Community Advocate.

Our goal is to create awareness and help those who are seeking out a better life for them and their family. If you know someone who could benefit from our Puentes de Esperanza program, please give us a call at (618) 688-4727.