LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The Cristo Rey Church in Lansing has a special place in the heart of Sein Paul Benavidez.
“The buildings just a building. It’s the people, that’s the church,” Benavides said.
It’s where his love for his Latino community in Lansing grew. He couldn’t always see his culture reflected in other places in the city.
“Didn’t see many people that looked like me in the schools early on especially kindergarten through 12th grade,” Benavides said.
Cristo Rey was the place he felt most connected him to his heritage.
“This was always home and it’ll always be home,” Benavides said.
Benavides would eventually take his love for the Latino community from the church to the classroom. He helped restart Latino clubs at all Lansing School District high schools.
Then from the classroom, Benavides expanded to the internet. He created the website Cafecito Caliente in 2012.
“We try to highlight the community and try to provide resources to the community,” Benavides said.
The website features more than 150 Latino-owned businesses in the area and holds networking meet ups for the Latino community. One of their most popular events was Latino Day with the Lugnuts.
Benavides said Cafecito Caliente also partners with organizations to help Latino-owned businesses.
Most recently, he’s been working with the Lansing Area Economic Partnership to apply for grants.
“A couple of people I stayed with till 2:30 in the morning filling out their paperwork and LEAP just announced the grants and a couple of them came up with some pretty good money to keep their businesses going,” Benavides said.
Benavides said this is how he pays tribute to his Latino heritage.
“I love what I do. I absolutely can’t say that enough.. I love what I do,” Benavides said.
His dream is to expand Cafecito Caliente from the computer screen to a newspaper publication where he can continue to serve.