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HAO was founded by Lupe Pearce in 1976 to assist Allentown's growing Latino community become more economically self-sufficient.
The agency had an early focus, in large part, from her personal experiences coming to the United States, having to learn English, and then finding odd jobs at the University of Chicago library. She would ultimately teaching Spanish in the Chicago school district, using the teaching degree she had earned in her native country, Chile.
When she moved to Allentown with her family, she could relate to the plight of Latinos who had lost their jobs when factories closed. Without new marketable skills, they were unable to support their families as productive members of the community.
Then, with a small grant from The First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, Lupe opened the doors of HAO to train and educate Hispanic residents to realize their dreams. Maria Cruz was the first HAO volunteer, and has remained at the agency ever since. The first HAO office was located at 220 N. 6th Street in downtown Allentown. The agency next moved to 302 Chew Street.
From these modest beginning in those early days, HAO has grown from an organization with a nominal budget, a staff of one in a small rented office, serving a handful of clients to an active, vital center staffed by over 60 people, serving a cross-section of inner-city residents.
PA Secretary of Labor and Industry Charles Liebert pictured here, signing the first workforce training that established HAO's nurses' aide program in 1981.