Northeast Ohio’s 2019 Women of Note

July 18, 2019

HOLA Ohio’s Executive Director and founder, Veronica Dalberg, was named one of Northeast Ohio’s 2019 Women of Note by Crain’s Cleveland Business in a ceremony yesterday, July 17, at Public Auditorium in downtown Cleveland. Every year Crain’s Cleveland Business salutes a group of inspiring women whose dedication and achievements enrich Northeast Ohio, its institutions and its people. A panel of Crain’s editors chose this year’s class from a deep and broad pool of nominations.

“I am deeply touched to receive this recognition,” said Dahlberg. “My parents, along with the immigrants I’ve served over the last 25 years, have shaped who I am today. I strive every day to carry forward the values of hard work, integrity and compassion that I’ve gleaned from them, but also to put these values in action by providing leadership to my greater Cleveland community.”

The daughter of Mexican and Hungarian immigrants, Dahlberg was born in Canton and grew up in Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood before her family settled down in Ashtabula, where she still lives today. Dahlberg said that early on she acted as translator, interpreter and advocate for her parents, who struggled with English but “were very patriotic,” becoming U.S. citizens after building their Ashtabula home.

Her parents also were active in the community, where Dahlberg saw firsthand the many roadblocks facing immigrants. Yet, it was an experience as an undergrad that helped her realize she wanted to help other Latinos knock down some of those barriers. “Because I was bilingual, I was asked to do a practicum interviewing migrant farmworkers on Virginia’s eastern shores for two weeks.” she said. “I was shocked at the working and living conditions among these thousands of Mexican immigrant workers. I ended up staying eight months trying to organize the workers to improve their lives.”

Fast forward nearly two decades and HOLA has emerged as a pillar of the immigrant community, not only in Lake and Ashtabula counties but across Ohio. “HOLA remains centered on driving change for the families closest to its home base in Painesville,” said Dahlberg. “Our four-person staff and the six-person board have been raising money to open a community center, tentatively planned for Painesville.” So far, HOLA has secured about $400,000 of the $1.4 million needed to retrofit a building that Dahlberg envisions as an access point for educational opportunities and workforce training, particularly in manufacturing skills.

In addition to keeping their eyes on the future, Dahlberg and her staff work tirelessly to help vulnerable families by providing free access to legal support, case management, citizenship prep and more, providing assistance to over 500 families and placing dozens of immigrants on a pathway to legal status.

Primarily funded by individual donations, HOLA Ohio harnesses the support of a vast network of supporters across the US to implement its programming. In an effort to continue to its groundbreaking work reuniting families and children and supporting asylum seekers, HOLA created the HOLA is HOPE promotional video. The piece details the effects ICE raids are having on children and how HOLA is helping to reunite families.