Latino Gala Brings San Juan to New Haven
by Allan Appel | Jun 7, 2010 7:41 am
It was billed as “Noche Bohemia,” a step back in time to the romantic San Juan, Puerto Rico of the 1950s. It was also a philanthropic step forward for John and Frances Padilla (pictured above) and their friends at the Progresso Latino Fund.
The steps took place Saturday night in the cavernous old Wachovia Bank building at Church and Crown. The former teller stations now served mojitos, and its check deposit tables, sprout palm trees, as the Fund staged its first dinner dance and raised $40,000 to advance scholarships and educational opportunities for Greater New Haven’s Latino kids.
Established in 2003 through the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven as the area’s first endowment created by the Spanish-speaking community, the PLF has staged a series of educational forums to promote the concept of long term charitable giving by Latinos. (Click here and here for stories about PLF’s scholarship funds.)
Saturday was the PLF’s first “gala” fundraising benefit. Two hundred people came with their dancing shoes on and wallets open.
The night’s honoree, local entrepreneur John Soto, said of longer-term philanthropy and Latinos, “We have the most giving people in the world if it’s an immediate [for example, a disaster]. But to say that we should build a building, an institution, well, we’re not there yet.”
Soto’s rags to riches story, that of a machinist who rose to found his own New Haven-based aerospace supply company, Space Craft Manufacturing on East Street, was a centerpiece of the evening.
So was how the PLF raised, on an emergency basis, $10,000 to help Amistad high school senior Michelle Palma (left, with Gladys Soto), attend a Cornell University summer college to prepare for a career in architecture. She’d been accepted but her family couldn’t afford the fees.
Palma said the experience opened her eyes to internships, study abroad, and possibilities she didn’t know about. She also shifted her perspective on math and science so that she is now going to be going to Bates College in Maine to study engineering.
“I’m Mexican, and in my culture, if someone gives something to you, you give it back twice as much,” she said. “In the future I will.”
Which was the very point of the evening.
As politicos such as gubernatorial hopeful Dan Malloy congratulated Soto (in photo), Padilla pointed out that New Haven Puerto Ricans, by and large the founders of the fund, are a young community, only 50 years or so as a sizable community in New Haven.
“It takes years before a community learns that by [longer-term] giving, it comes back to you,” he said.
The PLF now has about $175,000. The goal is to grow it to $250,000 by the end of next year.
The double challenge to area Puerto Ricans is that even though they are a young community themselves, “still other non-Puerto Rican Spanish-speakers newer to New Haven ask us to open doors for them. If we don’t do it, who will?” asked Padilla rhetorically.
On Saturday night, it was being done, with style, paella, and salsa. Secretary of the state hopeful Gerry Garcia (at right above) and Dr. Jack Hughes (left, there with his wife, New Haven State Rep. Pat Dillon) were on hand, along with DIllon’s Democratic primary challenger this year, Sergio Rodriguez, and many others.
The gala’s coordinators were Danny Diaz, Cynthia Rojas, and John Padilla, with the palm trees and San Juan design the creation of David Greco. Among the funders were Casey Family Services and AT&T.
To learn more about the PLF, call 203-777-2386
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Who Can I communicate with that can provide me with email addresses for Salsa Orquestas in Connecticut.
GRACIAS SIGE PALANTE Y COME DICE LA GENTE EN EL MUNDO ENTERO QUE VIVA LA ISLA DEL ENCANTO.
What a wonderful evening for a wonderful cause. Kudos to John & Francis for their vision and giving guests a great evening to kick-off the summer.
posted by: Sepblues on June 7, 2010 3:38pm
Great story, great cause, and great people in attendance.
posted by: Tomas Reyes Jr. on June 8, 2010 10:32am
Congratulations to the Padillas and others who put this event together.A great time was had by all and a great and generous man was properly honored and recognized.All of this
was done for a cause that should drive us to
even greater participation; the Progreso Latino
Fund. Hopefully next year`s event will be even
bigger and better. I, for one, look forward to