Elena Beatriz Melendez along with her daughter is the driving force behind the Asociación de la Cultura Hondureña en Chicago (Association of Honduran Culture in Chicago). The organization was founded because Melendez knows God has called her to give back to the Honduran community in both Chicago and South America.
Their Facebook page describes the association’s purpose is to:
Celebrate, strengthen and unite to our community. In our association, we offer a wide range of events and services for our community. We rely on the family, culture, strength, and needs of the community.
Melendez was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She was raised by a woman who believed it would be selfish to save money when so many had so little. She recalls feeling confused because they were not wealthy but their refrigerator was always full. Her mom made a commitment to God and as such, Melendez and her brother attended Sabbath School.
Her childhood home was a safe place for young people without families to share a Saturday meal. It was not uncommon for international students to stay with them. Through these experiences, Melendez learned the joy of offering assistance without any expectation of reward.
During an interview on October 17, 2018, Melendez spoke openly about the devastating circumstances in Honduras happening today. During the conversation, it became clear that her mission came to her slowly.
Melendez was told by two different individuals that she was not fulfilling what she was born to do. God told them in dreams that He was sending her signals but she was not listening. These events took place several years apart. A few years later, she was asked to help a woman with two children. Then it became clear to her.
She explained that the association was currently preparing bookbags filled with school supplies and other needed items to be donated. Another project mentioned takes place in November when they prepare “gift boxes with toys, shoes, clothes, toothpaste, lotions, and food for the children.”
Melendez stated that while she was raised Seventh Day Adventist, she no longer attends church but hears God through the happiness of the children she helps. Currently, the organization helps 1,200 orphans in Honduras and Guadalajara. She says, “it makes me feel joy when I see the happiness when the kids open their packages.”
When asked about why she and her daughter, Elena Victoria Ramon, founded the organization, Melendez talked about how they started “about 10 years ago” but they worked from their home and were not set up “professionally.” Melendez pointed out her daughter is the president on record. She said they set up the bylaws and official paperwork a few years ago.
In the beginning, there was another woman, Lourdes, who worked with them, but personal circumstances changed her ability to be an active participant. Melendez says Lourdes helps out now by overseeing paperwork and “making sure everything is done right.”
Throughout the conversation with Melendez, she came across with enthusiasm. It is apparent she loves what she does. The group’s Facebook page is filled with event listings and information.
A comment by Socorro Infante reads:
Tiene una Misión Colosal de ayuda a los necesitados en Honduras y trabaja arduamente para lograr abastecer a sus conciudadanos!
[Translated by Google] She has a Colossal Mission to help the needy in Honduras and works hard to provide for her fellow citizens!
Another comment from Walexsy Figueroa:
un premio a la excelencia es una asociacion 5 estrellas para mi y tienen mucho que yo amo
[Google Tranlsation] A prize to excellence is a 5 Star Association for me and they have a lot that I love.
According to Charity Navigator, which is a guide to help people make intelligent decisions about their charitable giving, the Asociación de la Cultura Hondureña en Chicago is a non-profit organization dependent on donations. In May 2016, the association was established as a non-profit; 501(c)(3). All donations are tax deductible.
Elena Melendez is a woman with a big heart and the determination to make lives better for others. Her organization has touched so many lives. While the Asociación de la Cultura Hondureña en Chicago seems young, it grew from years of experience and love.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Interview with Elena Beatriz Melendez; October 17, 2018.
Facebook: Asociación de la Cultura Hondureña en Chicago
Images Courtesy of Gricelda Chandler – Used With Permission