MERIDEN — On Monday, two Latino students received a scholarship from the Midstate Chamber of Commerce.
These two awards were funded by the chamber’s Hispanic Outreach Leaders in Action (HOLA) committee as part of its annual effort to recruit more Latino businesses and make an impact in the local Latino community.
Rosanne Ford, president of the chamber, explained that HOLA is a group made up of chamber members.
Marisol Rodriguez, chairperson of HOLA, said the committee brings together community organizations and businesses with the purpose of advancing the general community but with a focus on Latino residents.
The group meets monthly to share best practices, resources, and support each other, Rodriguez explained.
“The information-sharing piece is probably the most valuable,” Ford said about the committee. “We talk about things that are going on in each other’s businesses or organizations.”
HOLA was started in 2006 because of the large Latino population in Meriden and Wallingford. The idea was to help Latino businesses and organizations become more involved.
Ford said the committee is “a collaborative effort to work together to grow the chamber” and “a significant number” of the Latino businesses in the chamber are part of HOLA.
“We are seeing more and more Latinos opening businesses in Meriden so it’s certainly an area and community that we are delighted to embrace and welcome, and work with and do business with,” Ford added.Fundraising and events
HOLA raises funds for education awards that are given to local students including two from the Latino community. Ford said for the most part the awards are $1,000 each.
This year, a total of eight awards were given on Monday at Gallery 53.
Rodriguez presented the two HOLA awards during the event.
Rodriguez was impressed with award recipients as they are not only academically successful but also involved in their community by volunteering and taking part in sports and other extracurricular activities.
“These are young individuals that are acting as role models to their peers but they are also becoming our future leaders within our community,” Rodriguez said.
In previous years, to raise funds for the awards, HOLA would host a breakfast event with a keynote speaker.
Rodriguez said that last year, the fundraiser was done through an edible salsa social at the Meriden Green with a disc jockey and salsa lessons.
The event was well received and this year the fundraiser will be a salsa social again taking place on Sept. 23.
The hope is to celebrate the Hispanic culture, so this year HOLA is looking to have some Hispanic dances at the event and an edible salsa contest within local businesses.
The contest is in an effort to highlight local Hispanic businesses and connect them to the community.
Rodriguez told the Record Journal that HOLA also recognizes multiple individuals through its “Shining Star” awards, typically during National Hispanic American Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15). These awards are given to Latino community leaders, who have somehow impacted the community.
Shining Stars will be recognized at the salsa social this year.Recruiting
According to Ford, HOLA is an effort to encourage members of the community to participate in the chamber.
“We are always looking to grow our chamber membership,” she said and added that when in conversations with Latino businesses, they always bring up HOLA.
“The committee, I think, is a valuable piece of recruitment of Latino businesses,” Ford said.
She said that when the committee is mentioned to the business owners, “their eyes light up.”
She said businesses involved in the chamber and HOLA have “great” networking opportunities.
People use the committee to make connections and do business with each other, Ford explained.
She said the chamber also helps businesses make an impact in the community through the initiatives they work on.
For more information, visit www.midstatechamber.com.