Aguilar outlines initiatives at Hispanic Chamber banquet

Aguilar outlines initiatives at Hispanic Chamber banquet

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Aguilar outlines initiatives at Hispanic Chamber banquet

Volunteer of the Year Award recipient Lita Lujan of Gents Barber Spa is congratulated by Board President Richard Aguilar at the 2016 Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet held Feb. 26 at Hotel Encanto.

The attire was formal, the atmosphere festive when members and friends gathered Friday, Feb. 26 at Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces for the 2016 Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet.

President Richard Aguilar recounted the chamber’s 2015 achievements and 2016 initiatives.

In 2015, Aguilar said, the chamber presented four new programs — a member expo with speed networking, a health conference for caregivers, a Latinas in Leadership conference and a member appreciation luau featuring the introduction of new software.

Aguilar said in 2016 the chamber is introducing the Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber app and will hold workshops for prospective or current business owners.

Also on the program was a segment honoring

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Richard Aguilar, President, Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Board members Rick Supple and Richard Aguilar flank Citizen of the Year Gabe Chavez of El Caldito Soup Kitchen.

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former presidents of the Hispanic Chamber.

While host Chris Cruz narrated, co-host Hillary Floren, anchor of KVIA’s “Good Morning El Paso,” moved about the ballroom, connecting with some former presidents who shared their stories of special moments that happened while they were in office.

Among them was John Munoz, who urged the audience to devote their efforts to bringing back the Whole Enchilada Festival, an annual event for 34 years until its demise in 2015.

The chamber honored El Paso Electric as 2016 Business of the Year and Casa de Peregrinos as Nonprofit Business of the Year.

Cruz said Casa de Peregrinos is in its 35th year addressing hunger and food insecurity in Doña Ana County.

“It has distributed millions of pounds of food,” he said. “Over four million the last three years and over two million in 2015.”

The Community Partnership of the Year award went to the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance.

Cruz noted MVEDA in the past five years has assisted in the expansion or location of 43 companies in the county, which collectively have created 2,800 jobs.

“They have partnered with our chamber to provide insight into today’s job market,” he said. “They have been a contributor in our job readiness program by helping individuals to become ready for either a career change or gaining employment in our community. They have become a staple in bringing business opportunities to the City of Las Cruces. We are honored to have them as a partner.” The chamber also honored the following individuals:

• Bilingual Educator of the Year — Octavio Casillas, administrator of La Academia Dolores Huerta

• Educator of the Year Jennifer Amis — principal of Arrowhead Early College High School and Arrowhead Medical Academy

• Los Amigos Ambassador of the Year — Rosa De La Torre-Burmeister, director of Doña Ana Community College’s Career Services and co-chair of the Hispanic Chamber’s education committee

• Community Service Leader Award — Robert Garza, Las Cruces city manager

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LCHCC Board Members: Rosa Bañuelos, Belia Alvarez, Rick Supple,Wendy Zuñiga, Curtis Rosemond and Richard Aguilar.

Zuñiga and Aguilar pose with Business of the Year El Paso Electric Company representative Robert Clay Doyle.

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• Volunteer of the Year — Lita Lujan, Gent’s Barber Spa owner and community volunteer

• Citizen of the Year — Gabe Chavez, board member for many nonprofits, including El Caldito Soup Kitchen and Community of Hope

• Hall of Fame inductee — Joe Martinez, former owner of S & H RV and Home Center, who has volunteered in many capacities, especially for programs supporting the military and veterans.

Receiving White Sands Missile Range Military Service Awards were Spec. 3rd Class Nicholas Thornhill, currently serving as an Early Warning Systems specialist during testing of Army Integrated Air and Missile Systems, and Staff Sgt. Roger Fuller, who is assigned to the 3-6 Patriot Test Detachment as senior launcher section sergeant.

The evening turned bittersweet when former Las Cruces City Councillor Dolores Connor paid tribute to the late Miguel Silva with whom she served. Members of Silva’s family surrounded Connor on the podium as she recalled that she and Silva sometimes disagreed on issues, but that he had always been there for her when she needed a friend.

Connor said when she was grieving the loss of her mother Silva gave her a wrapped book. She opened it much later.

“It was a Bible,” she said.

Connor encouraged those who listened as she spoke, weeping, to follow his example of faith and of reaching out to support those who may need their friendship.

“They have been a contributor in our job readiness program by helping individuals to become ready for either a career change or gaining employment in our community. They have become a staple in bringing business opportunities to the City of Las Cruces. We are honored to have them as a partner.”

Chris Cruz, on MVEDA chamber partnership

Las Cruces Police Department and Las Cruces Fire Department Honor Guard present the colors.

Distinguished Community Service Award recipient Robert Garza poses with board members Richard Aguilar and Belia Alvarez.

Bañuelos (far left) and Aguilar (far right) pose with Nonprofit of the Year Casa de Peregrinos representatives Lorenzo Alba and Antoinette Fuentes.

Hillary Floren interacts with past president Raul Garcia. Other past presidents included John Vasquez, John Muñoz, J. Joe Martinez, Beatriz Ferreira and Jeffrey Silva.

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