HIP Immigration Inspires Philly Area Town

The Hazleton Integration Project (HIP) offers immigrants and their children community-based efforts designed to unite many different cultures for those now living in the town. The project in the Pennsylvania town intends to focus and build on the inherent strengths found in both the commonalities and differences of the community’s cultural diversity.

The town, which is located north of Philadelphia, became a magnet for low-skilled immigrants more than a decade ago. Immigrant Hispanics, which made up only around 5 percent of the town’s population in 2000, were drawn to the town’s low-wage warehouse distribution jobs. Today, reports describe the town’s immigrant population as a “near majority” with a heavy influx of Dominican Republic natives.

Notably, HIP is the brainchild of Hazleton native and Chicago Cubs’ World Series manager Joe Maddon. Maddon, who took the Cubs to their first World Series since 1908, is rooted in Hazleton from childhood and still owns a home in the town along with relatives.

According to one report, Maddon’s decision to put his gravitas behind a community project for the town came in 2010. “There were so many different things going on, but at the end of the day, man, everybody was afraid of everybody else, and it was dark and there was nothing going on. And I was upset because this was the best place for me to grow up as a kid, and I wanted it to be that again for the kids growing up here today,” Maddon said.

HIP primarily operates out of 60,000 square feet of converted Catholic school space. The building is now known as the Hazleton One Community Center. Maddon’s and Hazleton civic leaders describe the essential purpose of the organization and its operations are to “help the city’s new immigrant community adjust to the town and to reduce the tensions that were at razor’s edge.”

HIP stresses the inherent strengths as exhibited through both commonalities and diversity. To this end, Maddon and others have raised $1.5 million for the cause. In 2014, HIP received the Human & Civil Rights Award from the Pennsylvania State Education Association. The center hosts preschool and after-school education programs as well as sports and cultural activities for the area’s young people.

The focus on kids’ activities, along with teaching respect and appreciation for different cultures and backgrounds, are key to HIP’s success.

“Bring the kids together and the parents will naturally follow. … The kids don’t care what color your skin is. There’s no prejudice. That’s all learned,” Maddon says.