North Philadelphia: 8th Annual Sugarcane Festival Motivates and Educates Community

Couples danced as the live band played contemporary and classic favorites.

Helping connect local residents to health and civic organizations is the purpose behind the annual Sugarcane Festival in North Philadelphia now in its eighth year.

APM President and CEO Nilda Ruiz delivered an opening speech.

The idea for the festival came to Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha CEO and President Nilda Ruiz. She wanted to show the strong and growing Hispanic community to the National Council of La Raza.

La Raza, Ruiz explained, is “like the NAACP for the Latino community.”

Philadelphia is one of several cities that experienced overall population growth due to the strong influx of Hispanic and Asian residents. There were 45.5 percent more Hispanic residents in 2010 compared to 2000, according to the U.S. Census.

The festival held last week is the opening to a long chain of summer events meant to inspire and educate the Hispanic community.

José Colón, a local resident, explained: “Vote season is very important. That’s why we have these little festivals… we got to as a community all get involved.”

José Figueroa motivates community volunteers for a variety of events. He works with the Hispanic-American Riders Association, which he explains is not a motorcycle club but a group of volunteers that takes part in various local events.

Community members visiting one of the tents erected in the small park at Fifth and Berks.

Figueroa said organizations, like APM, are “always opening the door for different things but without a volunteer they get nothing done. So that’s why we’re here.”

Figueroa has experience with many community events and said, “It’s very rare that you see community events like this in the community.”

The Sugarcane Festival includes healthcare providers, drug and alcohol counselors, home and education finance services and more.

People attending could have any issue addressed by leaving their names and numbers with APM, which will refer them to any of their 15 offices or an appropriate organization

APM has grown into a huge organization from its beginnings 47 years ago.

Couples danced as the live band played contemporary and classic favorites.

“If you look at our operations, it looks like $10 million,” Ruiz said. “But that doesn’t include our property management or our projects. If you combine everything, we’re managing $50 million.”

Ruiz said she feels her primary goal is to build leadership in the community which can help APM and other Hispanic organizations grow.

Ruiz said, “I hope that APM is still here for the next 100 years and I know I’m not going to be but I hope the legacy continues.”

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