Back in the 1980s Fabiola Palacios joined a networking group for local professionals that made her wonder where all the Latinos were in Elgin.
She became the co-founder of today's Elgin Hispanic Network, which celebrated its 25th anniversary at a luncheon Wednesday. The first meeting in 1987 had 20 people, most of whom worked at local social service agencies. Palacios said the dual goals of the organization were to coordinate services for families in the community and create a space for bilingual Latinos to learn from and support each other.
At first, people doubted the effort. Palacios remembers hearing that the church was the only way to connect Latinos.
"I thought, 'This is a challenge for me and I'm going to prove you wrong,'
" Palacios said. "And I did. Because the Hispanic network kept growing and growing."
Almost 100 people showed up to celebrate the group's 25th anniversary at Elgin Community College. Palacios spoke about the network's history, three college freshmen awarded EHN scholarships last spring were recognized and awards were presented to the organization of the year -- the Renz Center -- and the individual of the year -- Jaime García, executive director of Centro de Información.
García said the recognition took him by surprise and was "an honor." While Centro de Información has always been a member of the network, García only started attending the meetings about five years ago. He said the group is a great way to communicate between service agencies so everyone knows what projects the others are working on.
"The intent is to get together for the good of the Hispanic community," García said.
The awards recognize individuals and businesses who have distinguished themselves in working to positively impact the Latino community in the greater Elgin area.
Karla Guzmán, social/cultural chair for EHN and parent community outreach coordinator for U-46, said the major push for the network next year will be to expand the student scholarship opportunities. Three high school seniors were awarded $1,500 scholarships for this school year but Guzmán hopes to give adults the opportunity to apply for money to put toward continuing education too.
For details about the network, visit elginhispanicnetwork.org.