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Centro Hispano is hosting its 10th year of existence with its third annual Gala on Oct. 17 at the Ramada Hotel and River’s Edge Convention Center.

Guests will be treated to a party with plenty of food, drink and culture to tide anyone over for the next decade. The theme, appropriately enough, will be “A Decade of Change” and will spotlight the organization’s achievements over the past 10 years.

“We are going to have the opportunity to showcase what the last 10 years have been like, in terms of growth, projects (and) community relationships that we have built over the years,” said Karina Perez, executive director of Centro Hispano. “We also get to highlight our founders, our volunteers who have helped shape it into what it has become.”

The organization’s founders, Fernando Lopez, Karen Gomez and Maria Davila will be honored with awards during the gathering. For Lopez, the 10th anniversary of the organization brings back memories of its inception, which came about thanks to a need for better educational and job opportunities for Hispanic people in Columbus and the surrounding area.

“We started seeing the need in different areas, not just in the schools,” Lopez said. “Medical, workplaces, banks. Karen (Gomez), her career was (as) a realtor, she was seeing that a lot of the people wanted to buy a house, but they didn’t have access to the information on how to buy a house. We started seeing all these needs and said, ‘Well, maybe we need to do something for the community.’”

That something was Centro Hispano and during the years the organization has been a go-to source for Hispanic people looking for job opportunities, legal services, business boosting and civic engagement. With the gala, Perez has a way for people to recognize the services that Centro provides to the community, while also experiencing a little bit of Hispanic culture, too.

“We have found that we like to entertain our guests,” Perez said. “We will be having live mariachi and a DJ at our event. We like to bring pieces of our culture in and so we’re having mariachi, which is a typical Mexican tradition and that will be something that they will listen to during dinnertime as we transition in and out of some things. We are excited to have some things that (people) may not be accustomed to.”

As Perez spotlights what the organization has done for the community over the past decade, she wants to let people know that their monetary donation to Centro will have a far-reaching impact beyond the walls of the conference center.

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“This year, we’re talking about ‘Your Money, Your Impact, Your Change’,” Perez said. “That’s our tagline for what we’re doing this year. It’s your money, all your gifts and contributions; the impact that it creates directly onto our clients; and then the change that they can see thereafter. This is really where we get to see and showcase that work for them. That’s the part that I feel like they take away.”

The gala will also spotlight Iliana Guerrero, a volunteer that has made a significant impact on the organization. Perez even considers her among the people who founded Centro, along with Lopez, Gomez and Davila.

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“She has been contributing to Centro since the very beginning,” Perez said. “She went from volunteer to an employee to going back to volunteering this past year with her husband. She helped with the Festival (de las Americas), so it’s just been growth for herself and seeing Centro come alive. She’s seen it mold out over the years.”

It will certainly be an emotional night for those involved with Centro from the very beginning, including Lopez, an esteemed local business owner who joined forces with two others to form an organization to assist Hispanic people of all walks of life. But his main purpose is to be remembered for helping the community, no matter who benefits.

“I really wish my legacy will be that we were working for one community,” Lopez said. “No matter who you are or what color is your skin, we should work for one united community. I want to focus on how important it is to get involved in the community, no matter what you do or what your mentality is, we need to give back something to the community. Maybe I’m not the best example, but I want to inspire somebody else to get involved.”

For more information about the upcoming festivities, those with questions are encouraged to reach Perez at 402-564-2110. 

Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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