NEW CITY – County Executive Ed Day marked Hispanic Heritage Month by honoring four local Latino leaders who have made outstanding contributions to Rockland.
Hispanic Heritage Month is observed nationally from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. According to the 2020 Census, Hispanic-Americans make up 19.6% of the population of Rockland County (66,451 out of 338,329).
“Rockland is extremely diverse but would not be nearly as successful without the people honored this month,” concluded County Executive Day.
Those honored this year are Maria Luisa Whittingham, Founder of the Maria Luisa Annual Scholarship Fund, Doris Karpeh-Diaz, Centro de Amigos Co-Founder, Richard Fernandez, North Rockland School Board President, and Dr. Marela Velez, Infectious Disease Physician in the Rockland County Department of Health.
Maria Luisa Whittingham has made a tremendous difference in the daily lives of so many in Rockland by co-founding Nyack Merchants United, a grassroots organization to drive traffic and increase visibility among local businesses. She also formed the Maria Luisa Scholarship Fund which awarded $14,000 to students since 2014.
Doris Karpeh-Diaz co-founded Centro De Amigos, a Haverstraw-based organization which serves as the only adult care center in Rockland County for the Latino Community. This organization provides activities for individuals who may be isolated by linguistic and cultural differences.
Richard Fernandez was first elected to the North Rockland School Board in 2013 and currently serves as President. The retired NYPD Sergeant also serves on the BRIDGES of Rockland Board of Trustees, is a member of the Rockland County Hispanic Law Enforcement Organization, the Rockland Road Runners, the North Rockland Community Day Race Committee, and other various charitable events committees.
Dr. Marela Velez, Infectious Disease Physician in the Rockland County Department of Health, has gone above and beyond connecting clinic patients with resources beyond medical care, including food and clothing. Dr. Velez is an exemplary role model for the Hispanic community in addition to public health.
“The efforts of these individuals and organizations are truly incredible,” said County Executive Day. “Here in Rockland, this month is particularly worthy of recognition thanks to outstanding contributions from the Hispanic community, especially those commemorated by my administration.”