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More than a dozen Latino immigrants waited recently to meet with volunteers at Mercado Central in Minneapolis, each with a problem to solve. One needed help writing her résumé and setting up an Indeed account; others solicited assistance in translating documents from Spanish.

The nonprofit Amigos del Mercado, with offices on the second floor at Mercado Central, has aided such immigrants for nearly a decade, offering critical support for those who do not speak English. As an surge of Ecuadorians crossing the border arrive in Minnesota, Amigos del Mercado has gone from helping 2,000 people a year to 3,500 in 2023.

Now staff members there are mourning the loss of co-founder Elizabeth "Betty" Grant, 77, who died of complications from throat cancer on May 21. Colleagues, friends and family recall her as a spirited, stylish, trailblazing and caring person who loved traveling the world but was always dedicated to her community in Minneapolis. She decided to learn Spanish at 40, determined to parlay her skills into serving as a bridge for immigrants trying to make their way in the city.

"Betty's dedication to the center was really amazing," said co-founder Azalea Henao. She added that Grant kept coming even after she fell on the ice and broke her collarbone once — working through the pain, typing away and filling out forms on behalf of clients. "Her commitment was just unreal."

Grant was born on March 7, 1947, in Rocky Mount, N.C., and earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Her family said she worked for companies in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois before taking a position in Minneapolis as an Upper Midwest district manager for the Cullinet software company.

Then she decided to strike out on her own, cofounding boutique executive search firm O'Leary & Grant in 1987 with her friend Patti O'Leary. She ran the business with O'Leary for 17 years, then continued similar work as a consultant for Navigate Forward.

Henao said that Grant began volunteering in 2006 for the nonprofit Casa de Esperanza, aiding Latino victims of domestic violence who were especially vulnerable due to their lack of resources and English language skills. When the organization said it would close the Minneapolis office where she and Henao served clients, the pair decided to open Amigos del Mercado.

Grant was known to bike to Amigos del Mercado at 1515 E. Lake St. from her home in Uptown, where she lived with her partner of 39 years, Bill Casey.

Several volunteers described Grant as calm, dedicated and knowledgeable about social services to which Amigos del Mercado could steer clients.

"I don't know how we're going to get along without her," volunteer Karen Schleske said.

Grant also served on the marketing committee and as a board member of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota. She was an avid golfer, loved the theater, enjoyed hiking and biking and participated in the same book club for 33 years.

She was a "person who approached life's challenges head up and head on," friend Marilyn Doyle said. "She wasn't a person who needs the lights shining on her. She shone the light on other people in her universe."

O'Leary remembered her as "an astute businessperson, but she was a compassionate leader as it relates to the pursuit of equity for individuals who were perhaps underserved and somewhat disadvantaged by the fact that they were immigrants who didn't speak English."

Her niece Adrianna Grant remembered that she and six cousins used to come from out of state to stay at Grant's house each summer as children. They called it Betty's Finishing School or Camp Betty's, she recalled, "because we would get to be around a person who lived their life with so much grace and grit and also ease. It was just fun to be around her and be a part of her life."

Grant is survived by Casey; her sisters Adrianna Kirkman and Ann Winstead and her brother, Dr. James William Grant; Casey's daughter, Sara Jauniskis, and his two granddaughters.