High honors for founding HOPE member

Irma E. Lopez, left, receives an award from Mayor Willfred Rosas.

HOPE — Hispanics Organized for Progress in Education — held its “Spring for HOPE” fundraiser at the Moose Club last month. Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas, bestowed an award to Irma E. Lopez, for her decades of service as the founding member of the 503c non-profit group HOPE.

Lopez is a native of Lares, Puerto Rico, and arrived in Dunkirk in the late 1970s. She founded HOPE as she wanted to form a group for equity and access to the local Latino community in school, government, and the community at large. To this end, HOPE held galas to procure funds for and distribute scholarships to local Latino students to attain higher education.

She is a firm believer in collaboration. To that end, she reached out to Latino leaders in neighboring Buffalo to assist her in the formation of HOPE. These included Lourdes Iglesias and now deceased former City Court Judge Paul Volcy. Former City Court Judge, Raul Figeroa, a Dunkirk resident during his younger years, was also a big supporter of HOPE.

Figeroa was Buffalo’s first Latino City Court judge. Lopez recruited local community members for their leadership potential to form the first board of HOPE. One of the most notable members that she recruited for the board was Rosas, who at the time was a state trooper. Hector Rosas also provided many contributions to the organization.

Lopez was central in organizing many efforts of importance to the Latino community and providing equitable representation. She organized and registered local Latino residents Hispanics to vote as well as helped candidates to run for local offices, such as the Dunkirk school board and the City Council. Andy Gonzalez would go on to the elected to the school board as well as school board president, in addition to being a Dunkirk City Councilman.

Lopez believes in developing the potential of others through empowerement. The award is very timely as the OBSERVER in the Retrospective section recently published that Everywoman Opportunity Center Inc. honored Irma Lopez with its Award of Excellence (representing Chatauqua County) 20 years ago this month for her efforts with HOPE.

Those who would like to contribute a tax-deductible to HOPE may do so by sending a check to HOPE, PO Box 214, Dunkirk, NY 14048.