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The Newark Public Library holds fifth María DeCastro Blake Awards Dinner
Press Release April 6, 2006
Media only contact: J. Dennis Papp
(973) 733-7798;

The New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center (NJHRIC) at The Newark Public Library will honor three Hispanic leaders for their volunteer work and distinguished community service at the fifth María DeCastro Blake Community Service Awards Dinner. The event takes place on Friday, May 5 in The  Crystal Room of the Robert Treat Hotel, 50 Park Place, Newark, NJ. A reception and silent auction begin at 6:30pm. This year’s honorees are Felipe Chavana, Executive Director, Essex-Newark Legal Services; Adilio González, Owner, La Conga Supermarket and La Conguita Restaurant in Jersey City; and Isabel Nazario, Associate Vice President for Arts & Humanities, Rutgers University. Special Recognition Awards will be presented to the Honorable Wilfredo Caraballo, Assemblyman for New Jersey’s 29th Legislative District, and to Nélida Pérez, Associate Director for Library & Archives, Center for Puerto Rican Studies at CUNY.

María DeCastro Blake (after whom the award is named) was born in Vieques, Puerto Rico, in 1911. She migrated to New York City in the early 1930s with a high school diploma and very limited knowledge of English. María worked her way up from a low-level job in the garment industry to the post of Assistant Dean of Admissions at Rutgers University-Newark. She was instrumental in recruiting hundreds of Hispanic students, many of whom credit her help and encouragement for their professional success. Throughout her long career, and in the seventeen years from her retirement until her death in 2001, María was an active volunteer. She taught English to newly arriving Puerto Rican families; she helped send poor children to summer camp; and she was a guide at the New York Public Library and the Museum of Natural History. In 1998 the 208th New Jersey Legislature recognized María as "Woman of the Year" and placed her name along with those of Clara Barton, Millicent Fenwick, and other notable women of New Jersey.

Tickets for the evening’s gala are $75 per person. Checks should be made out to The Newark Public Library-HRIC, and mailed to The Newark Public Library-HRIC, Attention: Ingrid Betancourt, PO Box 630, Newark, NJ. 07101-0630. For more information about this program or to order tickets, please call the library at 973-733-7772, or contact José Acevedo at 973-824-6030.

Born in New York City, Felipe Chavana was raised in the South Bronx. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico and then graduated from Rutgers Law School in 1976. Felipe’s legal career has been dedicated to seeking justice for the poor and disadvantaged. Since 1989 he has served as Executive Director of the Essex-Newark Legal Services Program, ensuring the quality and availability of legal representation to Essex County’s low-income residents.

Adilio González was born in Lugareño-Camagüey, Cuba. After settling in the United States in the late 1960s, he and his wife, Elidia, established a restaurant/mini-market in Jersey City. Grateful of what he had obtained, he began giving back to the Hispanic community. Besides his flourishing food store, his other enterprise, Grove and Bay Reality, manages approximately 20 apartment units. Adilio has received recognition from governors, presidents and mayors; his most-treasured honor was when the late Mayor (of Jersey City) Cunningham renamed the corner near his store as Adilio González Plaza.

Isabel Nazario is Associate Vice President for Academic and Public Partnerships in the Arts and Humanities at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She was appointed to this newly created office in September of 2004. Prior to this position, she was founding director of the Rutgers’ Center for Latino Arts and Culture, and Executive Director of the Office for Intercultural Initiatives.

Assemblyman Caraballo represents the state’s 29th legislative District, which includes the Township of Hillside and most of the city of Newark. He was first elected to the New Jersey Assembly in 1995 and has been re-elected six times. He is the Speaker Pro Tempore of the Assembly and chairs the Regulated Professions and Independent Authorities Committee. His legislative office is located in Newark.

Nélida Pérez is the Associate Director for the Library and Archives at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York. She has received numerous awards, including recognition from El Centro for her twenty-eight years of service (2003), the Debra E. Bernhardt Award for Excellence in Documenting the History of New York (2002), the Instituto de Puerto Rico Excellence Award for her service and commitment to the community (2000), and she was selected as one of 50 Outstanding Latina Women of Year by El Diario/La Prensa (1999).


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