Willimantic Office

SAMA Willimantic (History)

The Willimantic Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA) office ‘officially’ opened in December 2007 but before that day there was much ‘behind the scenes’ leg work.

Local Latino leaders and their longtime supporters such as Juan Perez (currently Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, Commissioner), Kayla Rodriguez, and then 49th district State Representative, Walter Pawelkiewicz, Jeff Beadle, Windham Regional Community Council’s (WRCC) Executive Director and several others, recognized the need for support to local Latino entrepreneurs, business owners and for better community outreach.

On several occasions during the preceding years and months they met with Julio Mendoza, our Executive Director, they petitioned the state legislature for funding and support, they met to strategize and plan for this support and outreach to become a reality.  Several of these meetings took place at the homes of the community leaders involved, such as Kayla Rodriguez (presently the branch manager of the local Charter Oak, FCU).

During the legislative session of 2007, State Representative, Walter Pawelkiewicz with the support of Senate President Pro-tempore, Donald E. Williams, Jr. were able to get approval for a designated grant to fund the opening of SAMA’s second local office in Willimantic.  Soon after, the logistics were set in motion; local staff was hired, the strategic decision to closely collaborate with WRCC by leasing space from them and the build out of our offices and computer lab training center were completed and by December 2007 our doors opened.

From that momentum building day to today, SAMA has trained and graduated over a 100 local entrepreneurs from our Pasaporte computer skills and QuickBooks training program, and has helped several businesses open.  We have also closely partnered with the Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) administration and faculty, the local Windham Town Hall staff and elected leaders, the Windham Regional Community Council (WRCC) and many others to provide better community outreach and much needed support to local entrepreneurs and business owners.

Among the new businesses we have helped open are: Tacos La Rosa, Garro’s Place, Emmanuel Cleaning Services and Santini’s Barbershop and Beauty Supplies.  Additionally, since 2008 we have partnered with the Eastern CT Worker Investment Board (EWIB) to provide Entrepreneur Training Workshops in New London, Danielson, Norwich and Willimantic.