Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support employees celebrated the challenges, success and contributions of the Hispanic community during a virtual National Hispanic American Heritage Month program September 8.
Opening the program, DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Eric Shirley remarked on the opportunity the observance provides and its importance to the country.
“Generations of Latinos have exhibited strong family values, commitment to hard work and selfless service to their communities and the nation. These characteristics are woven into our country, and we are grateful for the contributions made by our fellow Americans of Hispanic and Latino descent,” Shirley said.
Guest speaker George Fernandez, keynote speaker and founder of the Latino Connection marketing and communications agency, recounted his experiences growing up as a Latino in America and his motivation for starting his business.
At eight years old, Fernandez came to the United States from the Dominican Republic with his single mother of three. As the oldest sibling, he quickly had to take an adult role, often acting as an interpreter for her as she tried to qualify for assistance, low-income housing, and various health and social services.
“My mom would go to these appointments, and we would run into other women that looked like her but didn’t have an interpreter. So, I would step away from my mother’s scenario and help them,” he said. “Since that young age, I became passionate about those women that looked my mother who were going through those challenges, and being able to connect them to resources.”
Those experiences influenced him to start Latino Connection, a marketing and communications agency that creates health and wellness programs focused on low-income families who are uninsured and at risk of health issues.
Fernandez started the agency with $250 and a borrowed credit card from a friend. There were times when he had to decide between making his rent and car payments, or investing in initiatives he wanted the agency to be involved in, he said.
“I’m glad I made the decision to be late on my rent and car, because I had a vision of creating a more equitable community than the one I grew up in,” he said. “Ultimately, the challenges my mother had to overcome when we first came to the country have become the backbone of the services that our agency has to offer.”
Some of the successful campaigns Fernandez is proud of are the Powerful Woman program, which connects women to resources to empower them to live healthier, active lifestyles; and Community-Accessible Test and Education, or CATE, a mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccine vehicle that services low-income areas where those resources were unavailable or unattainable.
“When you find something you’re passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels more like a hobby. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past five, six years now,” Fernandez said. “We are led by passion and creating more equity in the communities that we live, learn, work and play.”
The presentation was organized jointly by the DLA Troop Support and Naval Supply Systems Command Weapons System Support offices of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity.