Countys Hispanic Advisory Committee works to raise awareness of growing Latino population
Westchester Countys Hispanic Advisory Committee, assembled by County Executive Robert P. Astorino, has been tasked with making the countys large Hispanic population aware of the services the county provides and to share information on how to take advantage of those services.
The county offers a wide range of services, especially through the Department of Social Services, which in terms of budget and employees is the countys largest department. Many Latinos are unaware of whats available, says Rafael Elias, who chairs the committee of eight. One of the committees roles, is to let Latino residents know what is available to them and to connect them to those services. The committee meets monthly to discuss ways to raise awareness, plan outreach activities and advise the county executive on issues that affect the quality of life for Hispanics in Westchester County.
Elias was born in Mexico and has been living in Westchester County for 18 years. He immigrated to the U.S. when he was accepted at Yale University. Since obtaining his masters degree in public and private management in 1995, he has been working in investment banking.
Among the committees other roles is to educate the broader community about the contributions of the Hispanic communityif Westchester were a state it would rankif Westchester County were a state it would rank seventh in Latino populationand to help integrate Hispanics into the community.
To that end, the county organizes activities such as the Hispanic Heritage Festival, complete with music and food from different Latino countries. The festivals are also a way to raise awareness around the services provided by the count, as well as not-for-profit organizations in the areas of law, immigration, health, mental health, aging and education.
The committee also increases awareness of the Latino population by giving an annual award to an outstanding Hispanic business, organization or individual. Its given to people who have done something to help not only the Latino population but the Westchester community at large, Elias explains.