Emotions ran high as six area leaders shared their personal stories of struggle and their commitment to the community during El Concilio’s annual Gala Award Dinner on Thursday night.
El Concilio – or Council for the Spanish Speaking – celebrated 46 years of improving the quality of life for Latinos and underserved communities in the Central Valley, with mariachi music, dinner and unique speeches from five award recipients.
“The future of our community is bright and full of promise because of individuals like the honorees we are celebrating tonight,” El Concilio President and CEO José R. Rodríguez told a crowd of about 300 guests at Del Rio Country Club. “Political leaders like Luis Molina and Virginia Madueño, business leaders like Iván and Edwin Rizo, civic leaders like David Jones and Lourdes Pérez. Mil gracias (One thousand thank-yous) for joining us as we recognize their dedication, commitment and passion to helping the Latino community.”
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• Amiga of the Year – Lourdes Pérez, board member of the Ceres Unified School District and program coordinator for the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children. “It is true that it takes a village to make a change, and we all have that responsibility. ... I want to dedicate this award to all the Latinos because we all make strides in this country as immigrants. It’s a great time to be a Latina in this country,” Pérez said.
•Amigo of the Year – David T. Jones
, director of legislative affairs and communications for Stanislaus County. “I am very thankful for the relationships I’ve made in the past 10 years, people who I call my friends are role models and mentors who make a difference in this community,” Jones said. “We have fun and serve together. They are people who are motivated to work with heart.”
•La Raza Award – Virginia Madueño and Luis I. Molina.
Madueño is a former mayor of Riverbank and owns a public relations firm, and shared her story about almost dying as an infant and being grateful to the doctor who stepped up and saved her life. “People have fought for me, so it’s important for me to give back, much like El Concilio has done for more than 40 years. As long as I have breath, I will continue to fight for people who (don’t) have a voice and fight for what is just.”
Molina is mayor of Patterson. “I believe in fighting and that’s why we are all here tonight,” he said. “We (the Latino community) decided we are a leader and have to step forward and keep fighting for as long as we can. We must lead the way, because people who want to get involved should not have to start from scratch. … The Lord gave us talents and we should all start using them together.”
•Unsung Heroes – Edwin and Iván Rizo.
The Rizo brothers are owners of the multimillion-dollar company Don Francisco Cheese. “We are very thankful for this award, and it is El Concilio who does all the work,” said Edwin Rizo.
“We must continue to do the work, and I always tell parents that they have to teach their kids to do their share, to do the work,” said Iván Rizo.