Home Local News Centro Hispano of Dane County to be honored by Hispanic Federation in...

Centro Hispano of Dane County to be honored by Hispanic Federation in New York City Thursday

Centro Hispano's staff celebrates a $2 million gift from Yield Giving, a foundation established by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. (Photo by David Dahmer)

Jennifer Lopez, the award-winning actress, producer, singer, entertainer, and businesswoman who is one of the most influential Latina artists in history, will be receiving an award from the Hispanic Foundation at the Hispanic Federation’s Annual Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on Thursday.

So will Centro Hispano of Dane County.

For Dr. Karen Menéndez Coller, executive director of Centro, it is a dream come true.

“This is wild. We are so honored to be honored. I was just beside myself when I heard the news,” Menéndez Coller tells Madison365. “To be honored along with Jennifer Lopez, I feel like I’m living my childhood dream.”

Centro Hispano will be honored with the “Community Service Award” as the Hispanic Foundation honors member organizations that have made a lasting impact on Latino communities across the country. The special presenter for the event will be Valentina, a popular drag performer, actor, television personality and singer who came to international attention as a contestant on the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Centro Hispano, which was founded in 1983, has a mission to empower youth, strengthen families, and engage the community. Centro’s initiatives provide assistance to immigrants, foster youth leadership development, and innovative career training programs that focus on upskilling with a holistic approach to retention and advancement. 

Founded in 1990, the Hispanic Federation seeks to empower and advance the Hispanic community, support Hispanic families, and strengthen Latino institutions through work in the areas of education, health, immigration, civic engagement, economic empowerment, & the environment.

“The Hispanic Federation is a donor and they support a number of affiliate organizations across the country – close to 700 organizations,” Menéndez Coller says. 

“We’ve formed a really nice relationship, they support the community in different ways with workforce, health care, immigration, and policy stuff. We’ve been an affiliate for a few years now. And every year they choose an affiliate of the year,” she adds.  

With programs in 40 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, the Hispanic Federation’s focus areas include immigration, economic empowerment, civic engagement, disaster relief, philanthropy, education, health, and the environment.

“It’s a unique foundation because it was founded by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s dad [Luis Miranda],” she adds. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a songwriter, actor, singer, filmmaker, rapper and the creator of the musical Hamilton. “So they are involved in that, as well. I think for the work that we do at Centro, having those national connections makes us feel like we’re all moving forward and it’s really rewarding. Like I said, I’m just beside myself.”

As one of the premier Latino benefit events in the country, the Hispanic Federation’s Annual Gala raises millions of dollars in support of Hispanic causes from COVID-19 relief assistance to education, immigration, health, and workforce development programs that serve and strengthen Latino families nationwide. Last year’s gala was chaired by Lin-Manuel Miranda with a special presentation from actor Wilmer Valderrama, best known for playing Fez on That ’70s Show.

At Thursday’s event, there will be three other honorees besides Centro Hispano. Jennifer Lopez will be honored with the “Premio Orgullo” Award. Mónica Gil, the Chief Administrative and Marketing Officer for NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, will be honored with the “Individual Achievement Award.” Macy’s, the largest retail brand of Macy’s, Inc., will be honored with the “Corporate Leadership Award.”

Menendez Coller will be flying to NYC on Thursday to accept Centro Hispano’s award. Centro Hispano’s Norma Gallegos will be accompanying her, too.

Centro Hispano’s brand-new building
(Photo by David Dahmer)

“I’m really proud that they are recognizing the work that’s been going on at Centro Hispano in Madison,” Menendez Coller says.

In the very near future, Centro Hispano will be hosting the grand opening and ribbon cutting of its brand-new two-story, 25,000-square-foot building on Friday, April 26. The new facility will be a game changer for the organization that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and will help Centro serve even more people and families. Centro has tripled the size of its staff and doubled the number of programs it offers from just 10 years ago.

“It’s an exciting time for Centro right now,” Menéndez Coller says. “We have so much to look forward to.”