It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, and Lee County Sheriff’s Office took the opportunity to reach out to the community Sunday, fostering a stronger relationship with Hispanic members of the community.
“The music and the food, it’s fun,”” neighbor Marlyn Jimenez said.
LCSO and other local organizations invited members of the community to Lakes Park in south Fort Myers for a day of food and fun.
“We wanted to do something special for the Hispanic Heritage Month and also bring to our event the sheriff who serves the community,” said Leonardo Garcia, the president of the Hispanic American Business Alliance and Multicultural Center of SWFL.
The day’s event was a celebration of culture.
“It opens bridges to other cultures and other people to know our cultures,”” Jimenez said.
It was also an opportunity for Sheriff Carmine Marceno and Lee County deputies to meet the community they serve.
“It’s not an emergency situation,”” Marceno said. “They’re coming out here today because they want to, because we want them to be here. And we want to build those relationships not under emergency circumstances.”
That is something that is important to leaders of the Hispanic communities in Lee County.
“Traditionally, there has been kind of like a fear from some in the Hispanic community against law enforcement,”” Garcia said. “So this is a wonderful opportunity to show the community we have a sheriff who cares about them. That wants to serve them, and that they don’t have to be afraid.”
Vanessa Chaviano was an organizer for the event, and she is also a member of Leading Latina in Southwest Florida. She agrees with Garcia, events like the one at Lakes Park are important to growing connections with local law enforcement, building trust along the way.
“It’s part of a stigma that everyone’s trying to overcome and build that bridge,” Chaviano said.
And it serves as a reminder that Lee County encompasses communities, where all cultures are celebrated. The heritage month continues through Tuesday, Oct. 15. And LCSO plans to connect with Hispanic community members throughout the month.
“This community is really one. No matter what race, religion, whatever you are, it doesn’t matter,”” Marceno said. “We’re one community together for the same great cause.”