Americana World community center founder retires

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Mansilla had a vision nearly 30 years ago and ultimately made South Louisville a gateway for immigrants to get education, health care, and jobs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – An email the other day, after 30 years of work, did it.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your investment in a confused young man who now inspires change in marginalized communities in our world.”

It was written by a young man whose life, like man, was changed for the better by Edgardo Mansilla.

“This is my life,” he said.

He is the patron saint of the Louisville international community and their success. As Mansilla walks through the halls of the old Catholic school that has become Americana.

Decades pass by for the young man who thought his stay at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary would be short.

“When I got to Louisville, I thought I was coming to study and going back to Argentina,” Mansilla explained.

Now he can visit a sprawling campus where American students have a GPA of 3.82.

Norma Porras is one of the many success stories.

“[It has] gave me the opportunity to learn English. It’s like my city now, I love Louisville, ”she said.

Mansilla founded the Americana World Community Center in 1990. It started inside the Americana apartments where the owner allowed them to tear down walls for larger classrooms. The old name of the apartments has remained with the mission.

“What we want is for people to be integrated into society without losing their own identity,” Mansilla said. “We want them to become Americans without losing who they are.”

He didn’t have a business plan and the first few years weren’t that easy.

“I lacked support from other people in other agencies [that said] we don’t need a community center.

Americana finally got through the struggle and got into motion after Mayor Jerry Abramson embraced her need. Pictures of Abramson line the wall of his office.

“Never easier, Doug. Never. Never. You have to keep working, you have to come here to be of service to the people, to open the doors, ”he said.

Mansilla is a past who isn’t afraid to join protests and he says he’s keeping a cautious eye on the federal agency ICE. The constant worry of deportation looms, even though he has long since become an American citizen.

He carries his passport with him all the time to show that he became a US citizen in 2000.

A year after the protests for racial justice, I wondered how Mansilla saw his adopted city.

“Is Louisville a welcoming city? Doug Proffitt asked.

Mansilla replied, “No question. Louisville is a great place for internationals. i think we are [a welcoming city]. The protests were about injustice – something I was happy to happen in a way. Protests connect people of color. I saw in the protests not just African Americans – I saw LatinX [and] I saw people from different backgrounds.

He can retire knowing that Americana has become a buzzword during COVID, handing out financial aid as well as COVID tests and vaccines. The international community knew where to turn.

“People come to the center because they want to, they don’t have to – they choose to come. This is the strength that made Americana strong and continues to grow, ”he said.

With four grandchildren and a fifth on the way, there’s really a chance this dynamo for Louisville will be busy retired – or will it?

“Are you really going to be able to walk away from it?” Proffitt asked.

He replied, “No, there is no way.”

Contact reporter Doug Proffitt atdprofitt@whas11.com. Follow him onTwitter (@ WHAS11Doug)andFacebook.

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