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Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award recipients recognized on Nov. 10 during virtual event

By La Prensa Staff


COVID cases have affected numerous events normally held during Hispanic Heritage Month, which ran Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. As a result, Ohio’s Latino Affairs Commissions (formerly known as the Ohio Commission on Hispanic Latino Affairs, or OCHLA) did not host its annual Governor's Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Awards Gala in Columbus this year.


Northern Ohioans received awards and they will be recognized on November 10, 2021 at the Latino Affairs Summit including:


NW Ohio:

The Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan will be awarded to Linda Parra, founder and president of Nuestra Gente Community Projects, a non-profit that assists Latino families with basic health care, translation services, and transportation needs. All families served are below the federal poverty line. Ms. Parra also founded the first fully Spanish-language FM radio station in Toledo, WVZC 96.5 FM.


The Nuestra Familia Award traditionally goes to to outstanding members of the community and organizations, that strive to improve the lives of the Latino community, as well as the general public. This year’s award will be presented to The Toledo-Lucas Country Public Library System for its achievements in community outreach to Latino families and children. The South Branch library, in particular, has become a safe haven for homework and learning by Latino children afterschool and on weekends.

The Military Service of Distinction Award recipient this year is Federico Flores, a charter member and vice president of the Toledo chapter of the United States Veterans Motorcycle Club (USVMC). The USVMC is involved in the community by sponsoring fundraisers to help different veteran-based and other charitable organizations in the local community.


NE Ohio:

Latino leaders from across Northeast Ohio will receive well-deserved recognition during the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan (DHO) Awards, sponsored each year by the Ohio Commission on Hispanic Latino Affairs (OCHLA).


Each awardee will have an opportunity to send a virtual greeting to the statewide audience attending the summit. The virtual summit will allow the community to come together to address transitions in healthcare, education, and business—areas where the DHO awardees have excelled in their careers and community service.


“As a board, we have always considered the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Awards one of our most valued and important responsibilities. There are incredible leaders who are doing so much for the Latino community, especially now during the COVID-19 Pandemic and recovery,” stated Commissioner Mary Santiago, Chair of the DHO Committee. Ms. Santiago hails from Lorain.


This year’s Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award recipients include Maureen Dee, who retired in 2019 after a 40-plus year career as a social worker at Cleveland-based Catholic Charities. Dee last served as executive director of the organization’s treatment, prevention, and recovery services. Dee, who was born and raised in Uruguay, earned a master’s degree in social services administration from Case Western University and an MBA from Cleveland State University.


Dee started working in the field of chemical depending in 1978, first as a bilingual counselor, then later as a supervisor and program developer. She eventually took the reins over the entire alcohol and drug service system at Catholic Charities, which operates in eight Northeast Ohio counties. She has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Case Western and a lifetime achievement award from the ADAMHS board of Cuyahoga County for her tireless service and dedication to serving individuals living with mental illness and addictions and creating a more comprehensive system of care county-wide.


“I want to express my deepest appreciation for the opportunity to work with Catholic Charities these many years,” she said at the time of her retirement. “Over the course of my career I was allowed to be creative and helped grow our organization into the change agent it is today. Most of all, I was blessed to work with and benefit from so many talented and dedicated colleagues.”


In retirement, Dee continues to serve on the boards of trustees at MetroHealth System, the Hispanic Roundtable, and mentors students in the Leadership Fellows program at Case Western Reserve University.


The El Centro COVID-19 Care Team at El Centro de Servicios Sociales in Lorain also is being recognized with a DHO award. The bilingual team continues to book first and second COVID vaccination appointments in partnership with the Lorain County Public Health Dept., even though the agency has been forced to close its doors during the pandemic and has had to offer its services in nontraditional ways over the past 19 months, such as by phone, online, and by appointment.


El Centro staff have offered interpreting services, check-ins for seniors, and a bilingual mental health line navigator. The agency’s team also has delivered supply baskets to those diagnosed with COVID-19 and unable to get to a store. The extra effort was needed because Lorain County’s Latino population was disproportionately affected by the pandemic—high rates of uninsured, working in occupations unable to work from home, and many with underlying health conditions.


Additionally, El Centro worked with the City of Lorain to offer its client families COVID-19 rent, mortgage and utilities relief of up to $500 per household.


OCHLA will honor the Cleveland-based Neighborhood Family Practice and its community engagement director Megan Meister with a Nuestra Familia Award. The Neighborhood Family Practice was formed in 1980 in response to concerns that residents of Cleveland’s near west side lacked access to primary health care. There are now seven NFP community health centers operating throughout Greater Cleveland.


NFP’s community health centers are located at many of the neighborhood-based community centers and all patients are welcome, regardless of their ability to pay. NFP’s care teams its approach to patient-centered care are being recognized for winning the trust of Latino families and building relationships that lead to better health outcomes.


Catherine Woskobnick, director of community health at Mercy Health Lorain, also will receive a Nuestra Familia Award. Woskobnick is credited with forming the Rising Stars program, which is meant to address the equity gap in health care fields in the Lorain area.


The mentorship program offers high school students the opportunity to job shadow and learn all aspects of the medical field, offering month-long internships and providing support and encouragement along the way to help harness a new generation of leaders and increase the diverse pipeline into health care. Dozens of students have completed the program since Woskibnick helped develop the curriculum in 2003.


Earlier this year, Woskobnick received the Jim Doughman Community Service Award from the Community Foundation of Lorain County for her work with Rising Stars and bringing COVID vaccinations to underserved areas. She received $1,000 to donate to the charity of her choice, splitting it equally between El Centro and the Lorain County Urban League. She serves as a board member of each nonprofit agency.


“When people work with us, they can feel your love, or they can feel when it’s not there. So choose to lead with love, because people will feel it in your eyes, they’ll see it in your eyes, and they’ll feel it in themselves,” she said at the June awards ceremony.


The Rising Stars program marked its first alumni to graduate with a medical degree this year.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Originally the Hispanic Service Award, the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award was established in 1980 by the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission [then called OCHLA]. This award was created to fulfill the Commission’s mandate to “secure appropriate recognition of the accomplishments of Hispanic/ Latino people of this state.”  The executive director of the Commission is Lilleana Cavanaugh. The Board Chair is Mary Santiago with additional Commissioners of Vice Chair Manuel López-Ramirez, José Feliciano Jr., Tony-Simms-Howell, Dr. Elena Foulis, Beth Gúzman [secretary], Dr. Gregory Gúzman, Michael Florez, María Cruz-Lucio, Rev. Juan Rivera, and Dan Molina.

The 2021 Latino Affairs Summit is scheduled for November 10, 2021 and features Karla C. Boldery, business development director of SBDC Miami Regionals.



Copyright © 1989 to 2021 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/02/21 19:14:50 -0800.





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