Agency highlights successes, presents awards

ROCHESTER — Ibero-American Action League ended its fiscal year with a surplus despite the challenges of working as a service agency during a long recession.

Hilda Rosario Escher reported the positive results during the 43rd-annual luncheon and recognition awards ceremony on Oct. 25. Julio Saenz, chairman of Ibero’s education task force, served as keynote speaker.

Working in a down economy provided Ibero with an opportunity to re-evaluate all of its programs, explained Rosario Escher. The agency’s fiscal success is due to the efforts of its employees working harder with less and the funders that continue to support the agency, she noted.

The agency also launched its third-annual fundraising campaign during the ceremony, which helps fill in funding gaps for programs, explained Zory Martínez-Allocco, Ibero’s director of development and communications. The goal is $75,000, she told the audience of 300 people.

Ibero’s annual budget is $10.48 million, and 72 percent is funded by government aid and grants, according to Ibero’s financial report at

"Business as we know was forever changed," Rosario Escher said. "To be successful, you have to change with the times."

Mayor Tom Richards said that Ibero should be proud of its achievements.

"We’re all doing more with less," he said. "But it’s OK to celebrate success, and Ibero is a success."

Several people in the community also were presented with awards during the luncheon:

* Friend of the Year went to Lifetime Care and its chief executive officer, Pat Heffernan, for the agency’s support of the Latino community through its programs, such as the Ibero medical interpreters’ collaboration and employment of 1,600 people, said José Cruz, Ibero’s chief operations officer.

* Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Yesenia Ramos for her contributions to Ibero’s early childhood center, where last winter she organized a toy drive that collected gifts for more than 200 children, said Martínez-Allocco.

* The Alicia Torres award was given to Nydia Padilla-Rodríguez for her commitment and dedication to creating a better future for Latinos — which is what the award embodies — through her work as director of strategic partnerships for the Rochester City School District and as founder of Borinquen Dance Theatre, noted Cruz.

Latinos who serve in uniform also were honored this year through the agency’s "Lo Mejor de Lo Nuestro" (Our Best) awards that highlight Latinos who demonstrate dedication and leadership in their respective fields.

Sgt. Fabian Rivera, who works in the Rochester Police Department, was honored for his work not only as a police officer but also for his military career as a U.S. Marine including work as an anti-terrorism officer, said Martínez-Allocco.

Roberto Cabrera, a Rochester firefighter for the past 11 years, also received the award. As a member of Engine 5 on Lyell Avenue, he responds to 2,800 calls annually and "gives his best everyday to the community and those he serves," noted Cruz.

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