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Event will honor 'Latinas Making a Difference'

Five Merced County women will be honored today by the Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as "Latinas Making a Difference" -- the second annual event where organizers say unsung heroes get some overdue recognition.

Claudia Corchado, Dr. Eugenia Garcia, Lucinda R. Martinez, Maria Torres-Perez and Dr. Angelica Ruiz are due to receive awards at the chamber's luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Branding Iron restaurant at 16th and N streets. About 150 people are expected to attend the luncheon, which has been sold out for more than a month.

"Our organization depends on volunteers," president Joe Ramirez said. "You are only as good as your volunteers and they (honored women) do much and sometimes don't get the recognition they deserve."

Garcia, in family practice in Merced for more than five years, isn't sure she's good enough for a "big, big honor." She said she puts 100 percent of her time into her practice, often 18-hour days and barely enough time for eating and sleeping.

"I am trying to make a difference," Garcia said, "and my goal is to make my patients as healthy as I can."

Former Hispanic chamber president and board member Chris Tafoya said honorees go way beyond what's asked for. They are unsung heroes in local communities and the volunteers who make things happen.

Tafoya said many people had to be turned away from today's luncheon and a larger venue will be sought next year. Chamber members and the public were urged to submit nominations which were chosen by a nomination committee.

Corchado, community project coordinator for the Livingston Medical Group, has lived in Merced 11 years and served on the chamber board about five years ago. She grew up in Dos Palos and now is co-chairwoman of the Merced County Youth Council, Merced County Breastfeeding Coalition, Hunger Task Force and also helps coach the Tenaya Middle School girl's fast-pitch softball team.

"I'm surprised and definitely honored even being considered," Corchado said. "I wish I had more time." She thinks honoring area volunteers is a great idea which should be continued.

Torres-Perez is a community volunteer and administrator with the Livingston Union School District.

Ruiz is a pediatrician in Atwater and Martinez is a ROP career technician and volunteer in Planada.

Latina women should follow their dreams and careers. By educating themselves, the community will be so much better, Garcia said.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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