Tonight’s United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) 40th Anniversary Hispanic Awards Banquet, an opportunity to honor some of Wisconsin’s great Latino leaders and the contributions they make to their communities, will be a virtual event this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UMOS is the largest Hispanic-managed nonprofit in the state of Wisconsin. The non-profit advocacy organization based out of Milwaukee provides programs and services which improve the employment, educational, health and housing opportunities of under-served populations. The Hispanic Awards Banquet is one of UMOS’s signature events.
“The UMOS Hispanic Awards Banquet is an opportunity to recognize and honor those who have made significant contributions through their personal and professional lives to make life better for individuals, families and communities throughout the state,” says Lupe Martinez, UMOS president and Chief Executive Officer, in a statement. “This year’s award recipients continue to uphold the high standards of excellence set by former recipients over the past 40 years.”
The first UMOS Hispanic Awards Banquet was held in 1981 at the War Memorial Building in Milwaukee.
“There were about 250 people in attendance at that first event and the last time we held an in-person event was 2019 at Potawatomi [Hotel Ballroom] in Milwaukee and there were about 850 people,” Rod Ritcherson, spokesperson for UMOS, tells Madison365. “Initially, we were hoping to have it in-person this year and we were projecting close to 1,000 people. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen, but we still want to select and honor outstanding people each year. We will be just doing it in a virtual format.”
The UMOS Hispanic Awards Banquet honors the contributions of Wisconsin Hispanics to their communities. The UMOS awards are open to people statewide, although many of the winners are from the larger cities in Wisconsin, specifically the Milwaukee area.
“We have had plenty of winners from Madison, too, including Hispanic Men of the Year Oscar Mireles, Juan Jose Lopez, Victor Arellano, Salvador Carranza and Pedro Albiter and Hispanic Women of the Year like Gladis Benavides, Dora Zuniga, Jessica Cavazos and Teresa Tellez-Giron,” Ritcherson says.
Nominations are submitted to an awards committee, which presents the following awards each year at the annual banquet: Hispanic Man of the Year, Hispanic Woman of the Year, Hispanic Youth of the Year, and Hispanic Family of the Year.
At the UMOS 40th Anniversary Hispanic Awards Banquet, Franklin Pizarro will be honored as the Hispanic Man of the Year and The Honorable Kristela Cervera will be honored as the Hispanic Woman of the Year.
Miranda Aviles will be honored as the Hispanic Youth of the Year and Debbie and Hugo Rios Family will be honored with the Hispanic Family of the Year.
Corporate sponsors for the UMOS 40th Anniversary Hispanic Awards Banquet include Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Gruber Law, El Conquistador Newspaper in Milwaukee, Landmark Credit Union, and The Brewers Foundation.
UMOS has its headquarters on Milwaukee’s south side, but has operations in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin.
“UMOS has really thrived during the pandemic. As a matter of fact, over the past fiscal year, UMOS has doubled in size as far as revenue and staff. We’re slightly under 1,000 employees now,” Ritchersen says. “That was due mainly because of a large $25 million migrant seasonal Head Start [grant] in the south valley portion of Texas.
“The COVID 19 pandemic changed the way we delivered services. Because UMOS operates a job center in Milwaukee, it was deemed one of the essential services so the job center never really shut down. We limited the number of walk-in traffic and we did more online and through email,” he adds.
“We couldn’t slow down because so many folks still needed services and still needed to be able to obtain employment and people still needed assistance in other ways like heat and energy assistance.”
Beyond honoring the people of the year, the UMOS 40th annual celebration is a chance for people to learn more about what UMOS does. The presentation can be viewed virtually tonight at the UMOS website, www.umos.org or the UMOS Facebook page.