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Cinco de Mayo Award Luncheon Celebration 2008
Latino Celebration ‘breaks down barriers’ By MELISSA HAYES Burlington County Times

MOUNT HOLLY — The Burlington County Superior Court and three individuals were recognized for “breaking down barriers” during Servicios Latinos de Burlington County’s Cinco de Mayo.  The “Breaking Down Barriers Awards Luncheon” recognized the efforts of people and organizations in the county to assist Spanish-speaking residents.  Executive Director Angela Gonzalez founded the non-profit organization eight years ago after she watched her mother struggle to schedule doctors’ appointments because she did not speak English.

The organization is housed in the Burlington County College building on High Street and offers English as a second language classes, citizenship classes and general assistance to Spanish speaking residents. The awards were presented during a brightly decorated luncheon at BCC’s Mount Holly campus. The traditional Mexican lunch featured Martin Carrion, a mariachi singer. Superior Court Assignment Judge John A. Sweeney accepted the award on behalf of the court system. “One of our core values is fairness and fairness is about equal treatment of individuals,” he said. The court system employs a full-time Spanish translator and also was recognized for its outreach programs including its Advisory Committee on Minority Concerns. Timothy Irons, of Haines & Haines/T.C. Irons Agency, a commercial insurance company, also received the award. Gonzalez said Irons helped her secure insurance for the nonprofit organization and he also has hired bi-lingual employees to work with the many Portuguese and Brazilian contractors who buy insurance from his company. “I think it’s very important that as a business in Burlington County, inNew Jersey, in the United States of America, you do break down the barriers,” Irons said.

Servicios Latinos honored one of its community volunteers, Ann Jingoli ofMansfield, for her work with the organization. Jingoli helps prepare clients for their citizenship interviews and also helps find needed items, such as furniture and clothing for clients.  “I like to help people because there are so many people that need to be helped,” she said. “When I see a person, I don’t see their color or nationality. I see them as human. I think we should all be treated the same.  Wendy Stella Gomez, manager of Sam’s Club in Cinnaminson, was honored with the “Latinos Making a Difference Award.” During her acceptance speech, she presented the organization with a $700 donation from Sam’s Club. Gomez was recognized for working her way from a part-time cashier to managing a $70 million club and encouraging others to do the same. Her store is also involved in many charitable causes. “Giving back is a very rewarding experience and that’s my challenge to everybody here, to go back and make a difference,” she said.

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