Honors four key contributors to organization’s growth, success
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
NEW GARDEN — Forty years ago, there were virtually no specialized services for a growing population of Mexican immigrants, who came to southern Chester County to support local agriculture, and start a new life in a new country.
But in 1973, seeing a real need, members within and without the immigrant community came together to found La Comunidad Hispana (LCH), which in four decades of service, now supports everything from health care to education, legal advice and more for the local Latino community.
Thursday night, local community leaders and various elected officials gathered at Loch Nairn Golf Club to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the organization — and to honor four key people who were instrumental in the growth and evolution of LCH.
Margarita Queralt Mirkil, LCH’s President and CEO, offered praise for the four honorees: Margarita Quinones, Mary Flores, Peggy Harris and Shelly Tucker.
Mirkil cited Quinones as one of the founders of the organization.
“When there were very few available for Latinos in southern Chester County, Margarita saw a need,” Mirkil said, noting that she has continued to be part of the organization for four decades.
Flores started with LCH as a teenager — working in a summer job — and held various roles including interim co-director in the decades of service since to the organization.
Harris only earlier this year turned over the reigns as Clinical Director to Rebecca Bixby — and is credited with starting the health initiatives at LCH, starting with Project Salud, which has evolved into a fairly comprehensive health care operation. In fact, the health center is now recognized by the Federal Health Resources and Service Administration as a Federally Qualified Health Center — one of just 1,200 facilities nationwide to be designated as such.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman — among the elected officials on hand, including Chester County Commissioners Ryan Costello and Terence Farrell — exaggerating only a bit, called her “the best nurse practitioner in the United States.” State Rep. Chris Ross — a long time supporter of LCH along with his wife Cecilia — had planned to be hand, but was stuck in Harrisburg because of the crucial transportation bill vote Thursday. Citations were offered in recognition from Chester County, the state House of Representatives, the state Senate as well as from Gov. Tom Corbett.
Tucker, who currently serves on the board of LCH and is a former board president, is a public health nursing teacher at West Chester University, who created and managed various health initiatives for LCH. She was also board president during the construction of the current building on Cypress Street in Kennett, which houses the organization and offers clinic services.
Dinniman, who has also been involved with LCH going back to his days as a professor at West Chester University, spoke about the impact it has had not just on the Latino community, but in helping this latest assimilation of immigrants in Chester County.
“The story of this organization represents the story of the Mexican immigrant community in Chester County,” Dinniman said. “Men who came only as mushroom farm workers, now you see mushroom farms owned by Mexican-Americans.”
But the change goes beyond the Mushroom industry, Dinniman, arguably, reweaving the fabric of Chester County and changing it, strengthening it with diversity.
“This is going to be the Latino decade,” Dinniman said. “And at the end of it, we’ll be saying ‘thank goodness’ it was.”
The organization made a few other announcements, Thursday evening. An anonymous donor agreed to contribute $100,000 to the organization, which will be used to fund an endowment to pay for items of need. The four honorees will get to pick the projects the endowment will fund.
Board president Alice Moorhead announced that she would be turning the presidency over to current vice president Paul Huberty.