By Jim Misunas
LARNED — The Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility will celebrate Hispanic Appreciation Month with guest speaker Abe Rodriguez, the director of the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Rodriguez will speak at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the Central Unit gymnasium, and at 2:30 p.m. in the West Unit Programs Building.
Rodriguez was honored last year in the Wichita Business Journal’s 40 and under program. Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Rodriguez said he learned English as a second language through a bilingual program at Wichita’s Park Elementary School.
The Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility re-entry team has worked on lowering recidivism and offers the inmates various programs to help with these endeavors.
Rodriguez said his primary goal is to increase the Hispanic Chamber’s membership, partly through networking activities and socials. That, in turn, could help them build their businesses. He says that many businesses would like to reach the Hispanic consumer, and that early steps like providing materials in Spanish is a start. But getting plugged in to the local Hispanic business community will make a big difference, he said.
“People want to see a face, to be able to relate,” he said.
Rodriguez was a private banking officer at Commerce Bank, He replaced Abel Perez, who retired at the end of 2011. The chamber also serves as an advocate for the interests of Hispanic-owned businesses. Rodriguez works across the street, at the Hispanic Chamber office at 1020 N. Main.