As Levittown’s Nancy Fuentes was honored for her contribution to the Town of Hempstead community Tuesday, Jessica Carrasquillo just sat in awe.
Fuentes was one of six recipients of the Town of Hempstead’s 2011 Hispanic Heritage Award. The 42-year-old started the Daniel A. Fuentes Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of her son, who was killed in action while serving in Iraq in April 2007 at the age of 19.
“We had gone to the funeral home to make the arrangements and the school is on that block,” Fuentes said. “I didn’t know why but I just needed to go into the school.”
Fuentes gathered up her son’s teachers and wrestling coach and told them she wanted to start up the fund. The foundation has since distributed 12 scholarships to Island Trees High School, Daniel’s alma mater, for students who have overcome obstacles academically and have excelled in athletics. The fund also supplies care packages to deployed troops and canines.
“I was really moved and impressed by her story,” Valley Stream’s Carrasquillo said, adding that she was humbled to be accepting the same award. “Just being able to be here and share this award is an honor. But being able to share it as a woman, as a Latina, is really a blessing.”
The awards were presented by Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray at a ceremony at Town Hall in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. About 150 people came out to honor Fuentes, Carrasquillo, a manager of Elmont's Bethpage Federal Credit Union who donates her time to help low-income families file income tax returns.
Here are the other recipients:
-- Bertha Bravo, a Hempstead Village-based dentist who immigrated to America in 1985, learned English, attended dental school and now educates the community on dental care.
-- Antonio Castro Jr., a vice president at Garden City's Charles Schwab & Co., who uses his bilingual skills to help residents manage their portfolios.
-- East Rockaway Village Clerk Doris Piedimonte, one of only a few Hispanic village clerks on Long Island.
-- Carlos Sorto, pastor of Centro Cristiano Renacer in Freeport.
“It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to recognize the efforts of these fine individuals,” said Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, the first Hispanic clerk elected in the town.
Said Fuentes, “This to me is a first. I was really surprised when I got the call. I’m very proud of my heritage and the recognition they give here is wonderful.”
Photo: Nancy Fuentes, right, is presented with the Town of Hempstead 2011 Hispanic Heritage Award by Supervisor Kate Murray. Fuentes founded a scholarship fund to honor her son who was killed more than four years ago in Iraq. (Oct. 5, 2011)