Youngstown group celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, turning annual food festival into drive-thru

Hispanic Heritage Month

The day featured traditional meals from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and South America

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – COVID-19 didn’t stop some in the community from the celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month Saturday, but they did have to get more creative with how they were going to make it work.

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations for the ​Organización Cívica y Cultural Hispana Americana, Inc. (OCCHA) are typically bigger and in-person, but to adapt to COVID-19 guidelines, they turned their annual food festival into a drive-thru.

“We didn’t know if it was going to be a success. A week ago, we had just a couple of orders and today we totally sold out,” said Consuelo Mendez, OCCHA board member.

The day featured traditional meals from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and South America.

“Even though we’re similar in culture, each one is a little bit different,” said Iris Crespo, a volunteer at the event.

Crespo volunteered at the Puerto Rican station, boxing up traditional rice and pork orders.

“It’s just so nice to see such a diverse group working together for a good cause,” Crespo said.

The money raised from the food festival will help the many programs OCCHA runs, like translation services, summer programs and scholarships.

On top of that, they hope they can show the Youngstown community what being Latin-American is all about.

“We want what every other American wants. We want a good life. We want to provide for our children, but we also want to keep up our culture because a lot of my Italian, Polish friends would say I feel so bad that I no longer know my language, and even though they might have the food, they don’t know the language and that’s one of the things we try to keep,” Crespo said.

Mendez says they were grateful for the support they received, and she hopes that everyone in the Youngstown community, no matter who you are or where you come from, knows that OCCHA is always here to lend a helping hand.

“No matter what, we stick together, and we sort of rely on each other,” Mendez said.

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