Community Organizer, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Laura Mora grew up in a poor Costa Rican farming community, where her father worked in the tobacco fields to support his 10 children. Today, she is a Community Organizer and Client Advocate who supports the vulnerable population and has provided Mercer County community vital resources throughout COVID-19.
In her native country, Mora trained as a secretary and rose to become manager of a local agricultural cooperative — a collaborative, grassroots approach to farming that relies on teamwork and mutual support. “We all pulled together to help each other, and we were all better off as a result,” she says.
Mora brought that ethos with her in 1989 when she moved to the United States, where her husband, a farmworker, had gained lawful residency under the Reagan-era immigration amnesty. She worked as a cleaner and in-home caregiver to the elderly, but made time to volunteer in local schools. “My daughter was struggling to learn English, and I saw how much the schools here in Mercer County do to help immigrant kids,” she says. “I wanted to help too.”
The doors were held open for me when I came to Mercer County. I want to make sure that everyone in our community knows about all the resources that are available to them.
She became president of the Costa Rican Civic Association, fundraising to support local families in need. She joined the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) where she helps connect clients with immigration issues and other disparities to the necessary resources, including LALDEF legal and advocacy department. And she collected thousands of signatures in support of state legislation allowing immigrants to get driving licenses. Today, her workshops have helped hundreds of local residents obtain licenses.
Since the start of the pandemic, Mora has worked with LALDEF to connect more than 1,000 of her neighbors with COVID tests, vaccinations, unemployment benefits, food and rent support, computers and internet connections to enable remote learning, and other resources. “During the pandemic, we had to take the bull by the horns and all work together,” she explains.
Mora says she’s motivated to help others because of all the help she’s received along the way. “The doors were held open for me when I came to Mercer County,” she says. “I want to make sure that everyone in our community knows about all the resources that are available to them.”