Celebrating 45 years of service to “El Barrio” at the 2023 Congreso Gala Latina
The 16th annual Congreso Gala Latina featured a changing of the guard with Jannette Diaz now at the helm, and promoted cultural diversity and community.
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As Congreso de Latinos Unidos celebrates 45 years of service and enters its 46th year, the organization will have a new leader at the helm for the first time since 2017.
Earlier this month, Carolina DiGiorgio accepted a role as Chief Counsel for the Rich Negrín-led Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, ending a 14-year tenure with Congreso.
DiGiorgio’s career began as an attorney with Stradley Ronon for 6 years, before serving two years as the Director of Commerce for then-Montgomery County Board Commissioner Josh Shapiro.
In the midst of those tenures, she became a board member for Congreso, serving 8 years on the board before being appointed President & CEO of the organization in 2017.
As she embarks on the next chapter of her career, DiGiorgio has learned many valuable lessons along the way. However, two stand out the most as crucial pieces of advice.
“You never know who you’re going to meet and how they are going to impact your life,” said DiGiorgio during the 16th annual Congreso Gala Latina on March 18. “Network, get to know each other.”
Secondly, “When you believe in somebody, when you want to give somebody an opportunity, tell them,” she added. “You don’t know how meaningful those words can be.”
The words of encouragement and confidence she has received from now Governor Shapiro and Secretary Negrin, in particular, have played huge dividends throughout her career.
To this end, DiGiorgio has extended the same words of encouragement to Jannette Diaz, Congreso's new interim President & CEO, officially passing the torch to her successor.
Diaz, to her credit, is a product of the very same North Philadelphia neighborhood that Congreso serves everyday.
For that, Diaz is “honored and grateful” to lead the organization as its new interim President & CEO.
“To be able to contribute to an agency with a strong purpose and vision in the very same barrio that I grew up in, I am home,” added Diaz.
Creating Self-Sufficient Lives
This year’s Congreso Gala Latina saw a leadership transition, however, just like years past, it was also a celebration of the organization’s successes.
Since founded in 1977, Congreso’s mission has been to enable individuals and families in predominantly Latino neighborhoods to achieve economic self-sufficiency and well-being.
It does so through its focus on five key areas — education, workforce development, health, housing, and family services.
Diaz noted that in 2022, the organization helped more than 12,000 individuals. Of those 12,000 individuals, about 75% reported an annual income of less than $15,000. About 76% of clients are individuals who identify as Hispanic/Latinx.
The impact of the organization has been felt far and wide.
Jose Aguirre, senior manager of governmental & external affairs at PECO and board member for Congreso, praised the organization for its commitment to giving back.
He particularly shared his gratitude for the commonalities between the missions of the two organizations he works for and serves on, respectively.
“I’m passionate about enhancing our communities. Therefore, being a board member for Congreso has been a very meaningful experience for me,” said Aguirre.
“I support Congreso’s mission to enable individuals and families in Latino neighborhoods to achieve economic self-sufficiency and well-being,” he added.
To end his remarks, Aguirre highlighted that Congressman Brandon Boyle had issued a congressional proclamation to Congreso for its contributions towards enriching the city, region, and country.
Diaz proudly accepted the proclamation on behalf of the Congreso community.
“We know we can’t do this work alone, and we are so thrilled to be able to showcase our impact, galvanize additional support, and celebrate our community collectively here tonight,” Diaz noted.
Here’s to Another 45 Years
The various services and programs that Congreso provides within its five focus areas are heavily aided by its local and national partners.
“At Congreso, we’re committed to continue serving those in crisis in a way that brings them as much comfort as possible,” said Julia Rivera, Congreso’s chief external affairs officer.
To do so, funding is crucial, and to this end, the Congreso Gala Latina serves as the organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year.
The annual event also serves as a platform for individuals to help support the organization in continuing and expanding its programs and services, effectively maintaining its vision of seeing the Latino community achieve economic self-sufficiency and well-being.
Each year, the Congreso Gala Latina selects a theme. This year’s theme was Loíza, a Puerto Rican town known for its Afro-Latino culture, music, food and roots.
To celebrate, live music from Loíza’s Amigos de La Cultura and Philadelphia’s own Tino Serrano y Su Orquesta Sala Dura, along with DJ Jesus, played throughout the event as attendees danced the night away.
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