There’s a chamber in Florida that has gone through changes in the past few years, only to rise to a new level of commitment, service, and advocacy.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County, founded in 1996, is an organization looking out for business interests of the Hispanic community in the Palm Beaches, one of Florida’s counties with more Hispanic population—340,280 in 2018. The recent State of the Chamber (delivered by Maria Antuna, CEO of the HCCPBC on Wednesday, January 22, 2020) illustrates the great results achieved by its executives in attaining the current board of director’s vision to connect people, commerce, and community and build a stronger local economy where Hispanics have greater participation and impact. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Palm Beach County “is going strong in an upswing,” as board member Miriam Acosta-Castriz of Law Offices of Miriam Acosta-Castriz PA said during the swearing of the new board of directors for the year 2020.
The event took place at the West Palm Beach Marriot hotel with the participation of its members and various local personalities running for office and in public service, among them Joel Flores, Mayor of Greenacres, Christina Lambert, West Palm Beach City Commissioner for District 5, and Dave Aronberg, State Attorney for Palm Beach County, who was the keynote speaker.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce ended up with 328 members in 2019 and the chamber locked in 285 hours of volunteer hours working for the Hispanic community in the county. “The Bahamas Relief Efforts was one of the organizations that we volunteer for which is very important to help restore the lives of our neighbors in the northern Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian,” said Antuna during her speech. “In 2019, the Chamber Connect Groups that were previously called Lead Groups averaged 35 attendees and created a 63% increase in comparison with the previous year.”
Other initiatives like the Health & Wellness Lunch & Learn increased from 15 attendees average in 2018 to 40 a month in 2019, a huge increase credited to the feedback and needs of the chamber’s members. Other events like the Esperanza Awards to recognize female leaders in the Hispanic community also increased to 16 nominees in 2019 from 8 nominees in 2018.
The chamber’s signature event, Triunfo Award, which helps in scholarship funds to deserving high school seniors took place in September could help 8 students in 2019 according to Antuna, two more than the previous year, and the chamber expect this number to grow in 2020.
“In 2019, the Chamber also formed the Governance Committee as we believed that good governance is vital to the organization’s success,” stated Antuna. “It will establish policies that will affect the life and work of the organization.
Antuna also mentioned that the Chamber partnered with Roberto Vargas, a certified coach, teacher, and speaker with The John Maxwell Team to provide business education to minorities and with FAU to offer business workshops for new business owners so they could have tools to grow their business.
Dave Aronberg, State Attorney for Palm Beach County and a former member of the Florida Senate was the event’s keynote speaker. Aronberg took the opportunity to address participants about human trafficking issues affecting the Hispanic community in specific.
“We need to talk about human trafficking because you are eyes and ears,” said Aronberg. “There are so many misconceptions on what human trafficking is and what it isn’t. I want to bring you up to speed because you can really make a difference in this world.
Even though fighting opium abuse is a top priority for the State Attorney, human trafficking is very much linked to opium abuse. “It’s huge how people are pulled into human trafficking as they’re feeding people drugs that keep them compliant in this life of modern-day slavery,” said Aronberg.
During his speech, he provided the audience with a video that proved how human trafficking has many faces.
“Silence is the enemy and this is where you come in,” said Aronberg. “We are at a stage today with human trafficking where we were with domestic violence 30 years ago this culture of silence and fear. We helped to break through that when it came to domestic violence but we’re still behind the curve when it comes to human trafficking and if you can’t get victims to speak up, they don’t get access to all benefits that they can get.”
Dave Aronberg’s speech was moving and illustrative of deep concerning issues in the State of Florida regarding real stories of the reality of modern-day slavery and the tale-telling of human trafficking in our mist.
The State of the Chamber event concluded with the swearing of the new board of directors for the year 2020 and the recognition of volunteer of the year and board member of the year which was given to Miriam Acosta-Castriz of the Law Offices of Miriam Acosta-Castriz PA.
Photos of the event