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Carroll County holds ice cream social to encourage Latino community to take U.S. census

Youngsters at a park in Westminster quickly learned a lesson Sunday. To get free ice cream, you had to get your parents to take the U.S. census.

Carroll County Government and The Cow ice cream truck held an event at Dutterer Family Park to target the Latino community. This population has traditionally been one of the least counted communities, and Latino children are especially undercounted, according to Laura Russell, Carroll’s census coordinator. The Latino population represented 3.9% of the county’s population as of July 2019, Russell said.

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Westminster resident Elena Hartley volunteered her bilingual skills to help people complete the Spanish-language version of the census on iPads. She said some people were nervous to take the census because they were reluctant to provide personal information.

“They hesitate a little bit because they’re telling about their life,” Hartley said. “I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing that’s going against you.'”

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A sample form of the census is available online. It asks questions about how many people live in your home, their ages, race and ethnicity.

Ellena. B. Hartley, one of the bilingual volunteers on hand, working at the Carroll County census committee ice cream social outreach event to increase the count of Latinos on Sunday afternoon at Dutterer Park. Residents who completed a census form, with the help of volunteers, received a free ice cream from The Cow truck. Sept. 13, 2020.
Ellena. B. Hartley, one of the bilingual volunteers on hand, working at the Carroll County census committee ice cream social outreach event to increase the count of Latinos on Sunday afternoon at Dutterer Park. Residents who completed a census form, with the help of volunteers, received a free ice cream from The Cow truck. Sept. 13, 2020. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Hartley said language is a barrier for some people. If a person doesn’t know what the census is or understand what it’s for, they may be reluctant to take it, she said. But when a friendly face can explain it to them in Spanish, she said, they’re more willing. Hartley, who is a member of the Latino community, said it’s helpful for people to hear that she took the census herself.

Wilmer Galdamez, of Westminster, took the census after chatting in Spanish with local attorney Laura Morton, who volunteers on the county census committee as a liaison to the Latino community. Translating for him, Morton said Galdamez’s concerns were allayed after their conversation.

“Once it was explained to him, he understood how important it was,” Morton said, interpreting what Galdamez said.

According to Russell, every Carroll County resident who takes the census represents about $1,850 in federal funding for the county. In the first hour of the event, seven people took the census, she said. By the end of the two-hour event, roughly 25 people completed the census, according to Morton.

Also assisting with translation were students from Gerstell Academy. Senior Hunter Linton, president of the school’s Spanish honor society, brought classmates with him to the event. Linton, 17, started learning Spanish in third grade and has honed his skills interning for Morton.

“I think it is really important that in our community we are including everyone,” Linton said.

Gerstell students conversed with passersby in Spanish, asking whether they had taken the census. Masks, hand sanitizer, buttons, children’s activity books and census materials covered a table. Children approached the table to inquire about ice cream then dashed off to find their parents, some of whom were among spectators watching a lively soccer match.

Mike Reiner, owner of The Cow, handed out cones. He said he was glad to help the county reach more people for the census.

Mike Reiner hands out ice cream cones from The Cow truck to, from left, Lester Rivera and brothers Liam and Jared Medrano, all of Westminster. The Carroll County census committee held an ice cream social outreach event focussed on increasing the count of Latinos on Sunday afternoon at Dutterer Park. Residents who completed a census form, with the help of volunteers, received a free ice cream from The Cow truck. Sept. 13, 2020.
Mike Reiner hands out ice cream cones from The Cow truck to, from left, Lester Rivera and brothers Liam and Jared Medrano, all of Westminster. The Carroll County census committee held an ice cream social outreach event focussed on increasing the count of Latinos on Sunday afternoon at Dutterer Park. Residents who completed a census form, with the help of volunteers, received a free ice cream from The Cow truck. Sept. 13, 2020. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

“I think representation is important for everybody,” Reiner said.

The day marked his third time assisting the county in a census promotion event. The county previously held ice cream socials in New Windsor and Union Bridge.

Martin Hernandez Castro came from York, Pennsylvania. Assisted by Linton and Hartley, he completed the census at the park. Translating for Castro, Hartley said, at first, he was nervous about providing personal information.

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“Now, I feel better,” Hartley said, interpreting for Castro.

Martin Hernandez Castro of York, PA, left, completes the census with help from volunteer Hunter Linton, a Spanish Honor Society student at Gerstell Academy. The Carroll County census committee held an ice cream social outreach event focussed on increasing the count of Latinos on Sunday afternoon at Dutterer Park. Residents who completed a census form, with the help of volunteers, received a free ice cream from The Cow truck. Sept. 13, 2020.
Martin Hernandez Castro of York, PA, left, completes the census with help from volunteer Hunter Linton, a Spanish Honor Society student at Gerstell Academy. The Carroll County census committee held an ice cream social outreach event focussed on increasing the count of Latinos on Sunday afternoon at Dutterer Park. Residents who completed a census form, with the help of volunteers, received a free ice cream from The Cow truck. Sept. 13, 2020. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

After two hours, Morton estimated 25 people took the census at the park. As of Friday, Carroll County stood in the top 1% of the nation for census self-response with a rate of 81.1%. It tied for 24th place with Nicollet County, Minnesota, out of 3,215 counties, according to census data.

Census data collection must be completed by the county by Sept. 30 so the U.S. Census Bureau can provide the president with the information by Dec. 31. Data is expected to be released to the public in April 2021.

More information about the census in Carroll County can be found on the county website. Information about the census in general can be found online at 2020census.gov.

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