State Sen. Monique Limón has recognized Central Coast Indigenous advocacy organization Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project as her nonprofit of the year for its outreach connected to COVID-19, farmworker rights and the 2020 U.S. census.

The organization, which began in Ventura County in 2001 before expanding to Santa Barbara County, was honored as part of an annual awards event organized by the California Association of Nonprofits, allowing assemblymembers and state senators to honor specific nonprofits in their districts.

Over the past year, MICOP team members could be seen organizing COVID-19 vaccination efforts for underserved populations, providing trilingual services in English, Spanish and Mixteco and advocating for the rights of agricultural workers, keeping the needs of Santa Barbara County's 25,000 Indigenous Mexicans at the forefront of their work.

However, out of MICOP's many recent accomplishments, Associate Director Genevieve Flores-Haro said one of its most important has been the expansion in Santa Maria from a team of one person to 10.

"Outside of COVID, and outside of the census, one thing we’re really proud of is our work in the Santa Maria area. We have been in Ventura County for the past 20 years, and we’ve known there is a need for services in Santa Maria, so we’ve been intentional in our growth," Flores-Haro said.

One reason the local team has been able to grow so quickly, she said, has been the abundance of trilingual speakers who can connect with residents in Indigenous languages as well as Spanish and English.

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Looking ahead to next year, MICOP leaders will continue navigating the COVID-19 world in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and growing their work in Santa Maria to improve language access.

"I don’t think we’re quite post-COVID just yet, but we'll be strengthening the relationships we’ve made in terms of our Santa Maria office, looking into possibly getting a bigger space, and continuing to see what the needs are." she said. "Trust is the most important thing."

Limón, also the chair of the Senate Select Committee on the Nonprofit Sector, congratulated all of the 2021 honorees and thanked them for their hard work in their communities during a June 23 virtual awards ceremony.

"I want to recognize the resiliency during this challenging time. You have stepped up to provide families with essentials, been on the front lines to keep our communities safe, and found ways to adjust your mission so that all continue to thrive," Limón said.

Other local 2021 nonprofit honorees include Community Partners in Caring and Santa Barbara County CASA.

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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