In the eight-county region of Northeast Tennessee 11,238 (2.2%) of the total population of 510,851 is Hispanic, Latino according to the 2019 US Census. In rural locations, higher numbers of people identify as Latino. For example, of the 259 Latinos listed in a Census Tract 804 in Unicoi County, 95% are below the poverty line.
The majority of low to moderate income (LMI) Hispanic/Latino people reside in traditional ‘house’ neighborhoods, trailer parks, and at company-housing both seasonal and year-round on private farms.
LMI Hispanic, Latino individuals were impacted during COVID-19. At two commercial farms in Unicoi County, outbreaks of COVID-19 infections affected the predominantly Latino workforce last year. Many lost wages for weeks due to the illness. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased their hardship significantly. In addition to the migrant workers during COVID, some of the hardest-hit employees worked in retail, restaurant, or hospitality industries. Many are Hispanic/Latino. It appears that employment levels are slowly returning to pre-pandemic status, but it will take months and even years for some families to recover from economic losses.
The ICE raids on June 11, 2018 in the Northeast Tennessee town of Morristown and surrounding area resulted in family displacement, mountain encampments and individuals needing help with legal representation. (St. Thomas’ volunteers provided food and other assistance during that time including monetary assistance from the parish for a struggling family.) Greeneville and Greene County tornados and floods (May 20, 2020)
The Hispanic/Latino community in Northeast Tennessee is resourceful. They help one another during hard times but need assistance from the larger community. The primary barriers are language and poverty and overcoming prejudices in Northeast Tennessee where only 2.2% are Hispanic/Latino.
We provide financial assistance for LMI Hispanic, Latino children and families in the region.
The Hispanic, Latino LMI population is historically underserved in Northeast Tennessee and some are vulnerable. There are limited resources available to meet the unique needs of this segment of the population.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Elizabethton Tennessee has celebrated bi-lingual liturgy (English and Spanish) since Easter Day, March 27, 2016. St. Thomas has approximately 50 registered Latinx members from five Northeast Tennessee counties although many do not attend church regularly. St. Thomas also ministers to the Hispanic/Latino community by offering prayers and liturgy at:
3 Mexican restaurants (owned and operated by the parish’s first Latinx families) and one bodega. Saint Thomas is invited into the kitchens where we offer prayers and liturgy to the employees.
2 migrant farms serving 150 people Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods Through these ministries Saint Thomas has developed relationships with our Hispanic/Latino neighbors. The Priest and pastoral care volunteers in the church are frequently called upon for pastoral assistance and to offer care for Spanish speaking people and families in their homes and at hospitals.
Our COVID-19 response include:
Clergy and church members provide pastoral response for sick and dying Hispanic/Latino people beginning in summer 2020.
Providing food and addressing needs for three outbreaks of COVID-19 resulting in three, twoweek quarantines on two migrant farms during the critical summer season.
Serving ‘on-call’ for restaurant workers and others coming down with COVID-19. •
Assisting a Latinx family’s return home to Mexico for “safety and work” to “take care of mother and father;" •
Regularly checking-in and offering prayers and counsel through trailer park Saturday morning visits and prayers with children and families offering education, vaccination information, and small Christmas, Easter, summer on-site liturgies, and, importantly, birthday blessings for many children.
Assisting family members to get back to work or interview for a new job.
Beginning to work with staff and professionals at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen School of Medicine and Health Sciences Department to publish and offer bi-lingual education, vaccination, and follow-up information for COVID-19.