We're Open: SOBRO
For close to 50 years the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, or SOBRO, has been connecting the community to resources.
Those include affordable housing, educational support and assistance for small businesses.
During the pandemic, that help became more needed than ever, but the non-profit had to find new ways to offer that support.
When Lourdes Zapata made history last year as the first female and Latina president and CEO of SOBRO, she was not expecting a historic pandemic to define her first year on the job.
“I'm really proud that we were able to pivot and almost not lose a step in providing services,” says Zapata.
When the Melrose offices closed in mid-March, she says the work did not stop.
“We ended up distributing well over 40,000 masks to our businesses, our small business that we work with, we distributed about 300 bags of groceries to our seniors, we also distributed well over 70 air conditioners to our seniors as well,” says Zapata. “We worked with 350 businesses, and they secured over $14 million in public funding, we helped about 17 minority and women owned businesses secure well over 4 million dollars in government contracts.”
While some of SOBRO's in-person programs were put on pause, the organization offered whatever services it could virtually.
Zapata, also served on the city and state's reopening advisory committees, making sure the needs of Bronx businesses were known.
About two weeks ago, the non-profit started welcoming back adults for workforce training with safety measures in place. As public school students return to classrooms this week, SOBRO is back to offering educational and after school help to about 400 kids enrolled in blended learning.
“We've really not just survived, we've thrived, and I think we came out of this stronger. This challenging time for all of us, stronger. And the fact that i am the first woman and Latina is sort of icing on that cake,” says Zapata.