Spanish-speaking Rotary embraces Latinos | PostIndependent.com
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Spanish-speaking Rotary embraces Latinos

A new generation of Latinos in the valley will receive opportunities through the state’s first-ever Spanish-speaking Rotary club. A group of 25 valley residents of the el Club Rotario Roaring Fork, who received their charter through the International Rotary on June 9, will focus on the education of Latino youth.”I’m thrilled. It just has so much promise and potential, and the possibilities to do so many things in the valley,” said club President Julian Hardaker, a real estate agent with Mi Casita Real Estate and publisher of the first Spanish language yellow pages, Paginas Comunitarias.The stirrings of the club began in 2002, when about 10 valley residents formed La Red Commercial – “the web” in Spanish – a network for the growing number of Spanish speakers in the valley to discuss ideas and become active in their communities. In 2003, Aspen and Carbondale Rotary presidents Marie and Chip Munday approached Hardaker and suggested they affiliate with Rotary International. The organization, founded in 1905, includes more than 31,000 branches worldwide that provide opportunities for businesses and professional leaders to further humanitarian causes and high moral standards in all professions.”I think it was necessary, and I hope other communities do the same thing,” said member Elizabeth Ruiz, owner of Mi Casita Real Estate in Glenwood Springs. “I always say that people can look at us as an asset. We’re here to stay and build our roots and be successful and have good lives for our families.”Linda McKeown, whose father was a lifelong Rotarian in Mexico, plans on becoming a member. “When I went to the meetings, I realized what the goals are and they’re exactly what mine are – to help the Latino community because they are hardworking folks in this valley,” she said. McKeown, who was born and raised in Mexico, owns Servicios Lationos Loma Linda Translations in Carbondale, a Spanish translation service for taxes and other accounting needs.Between 12 and 19 percent of Colorado’s population are Hispanic or Latino, according to 2000 U.S. Census data. In the Roaring Fork Valley, Latino population estimates run as high as 50 percent in Carbondale, and 30,000 Latinos live between Avon and Rifle, Hardaker said. In 2002, Hispanics became the largest minority in the U.S., composing 13.9 percent of the total population, according to census data.As the Latino population booms in Colorado, many residents, such as Diana Sanchez, are thinking about the next generation.Sanchez, a Silt resident, grew up in the valley before the Latino population exploded. “There weren’t as many resources. If we can make this transition easier for kids, that’s what we’re after,” she said. Sanchez, sales manager for Discount Lighting in Glenwood, joined the club as one of its charter members.The club plans to establish a college scholarship fund for Spanish-speaking students who have trouble going through traditional scholarship venues, said Susie Meraz, secretary for the club and a mortage consultant for Wells Fargo in Glenwood. The club has also already funded two Latino high school students to attend the Rotary Leadership in Lamar, Hardaker said.As part of 1.2 million Rotarians in 166 countries, the 25 members of el Club Rotario also want to connect with their counterparts abroad.”One of the ideas of Rotary as a service organization is that they want to support own community and also recognize there’s a world outside,” Hardaker said. The club likely will be involved in international projects in the near future, possibly in Mexico.Both Meraz, a Mexican-American, and Sanchez said they feel proud to be a part of a group that’s helping to bring Anglo and Latino communities together.”Now that there are so many Hispanic business owners in the valley, they all want to give back, but aren’t sure how,” Sanchez said. “We can be that link.”Contact Christine Dell’Amore: 945-8515, ext. 535cdellamore@postindependent.com


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