On the occasion of the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, I am pleased to announce the creation of a new non-profit organization in Paterson, the Latino Service Center.

I founded the Latino Service Center to provide a range of services to Latino citizens in and around the City of Paterson, as well as to celebrate the rich culture, history, and traditions of Latino-Americans.  While the organization is new and the programs and services we offer will be very limited for now, we are extremely enthusiastic at the prospect of providing culturally competent services to the residents of this Latino Majority community.

Sign Up for E-News

Here and across the nation, it is fitting that each year our nation sets aside time to acknowledge the contributions of Hispanics.  In his proclamation issued for Hispanic Heritage Month, President Obama offered the following thoughts:

“Our Nation's story would not be possible without generations of Hispanics who have shaped and strengthened the fabric of our Union. They have enriched every aspect of our national identity with traditions that stretch across centuries and reflect the many ancestries that comprise the Hispanic community. This month, we celebrate this rich heritage and reflect on the invaluable contributions Hispanics have made to America.

Hispanics have helped shape our communities and expand our country, from laboratories and industry to board rooms and classrooms. They have led movements that pushed our country closer to realizing the democratic ideals of America's founding documents, and they have served courageously as members of our Armed Forces to defend those ideals at home and abroad. Hispanics also serve as leaders throughout the public sector, working at the highest levels of our government and serving on our highest courts.”

Indeed all of us were proud when President Obama named Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court, the first Latina to serve on the court.  In appointing Justice Sotomayor, the President acknowledges an important fact:  that over the last decade more Hispanics have come to the United States than any other ethnic group.

In our own city of Paterson, Latinos are the largest group, and by far.  The latest census revealed that nearly 60% of all Paterson residents are Latino.

This is something that all Latinos should all be enormously proud of.

But it is also something that should cause us to stop and wonder how we can help the thousands of new immigrants from Latino nations coming to our city.  Indeed, the reason I created the Latino Service Center is to make sure that there is an organization committed to helping Latinos in and around Paterson.

We intend to do this in a number of ways.  Over the next year, LSC will be largely in a planning stage, surveying residents to determine the greatest needs.  I do anticipate, however, that services will be provided in the following broad areas:

·         Information and referral services to improve the quality of life of Latino individuals and families;

·         Educational seminars, workshops, and classes to help educate and provide information to Latino individuals and families;

·         Youth programming such as mentoring, internships, and artistic competitions; and

·         Festivals, fairs, and other events designed to highlight the heritage, customs, and traditions of all Latinos, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Like any new organization, we will need the help of many people to ensure our success.  And I am confident that the services we intend to offer will be of great benefit to countless Patersonians.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the Latino influence ingrained into the life of our city.  Walk down our streets, and you’ll hear the sounds of salsa and merangue all around you.  Walk 21st Avenue and take note of the varied Latino restaurants bustling with activity.  And pass by our parks, and see the kids playing soccer and the older crowd playing dominoes.  This is indeed a Latino Majority city!

Hispanic Heritage Month is a special time in Paterson, and the Latino Service Center looks forward to celebrating our heritage at the same time we plan and implement vital services in the future.