The Latino Community Development Agency is gearing up for its largest annual fundraiser by welcoming a new leader and paying tribute to its founder, who retired in August after 21 years.
The agency's Annual Recognition and Awards Luncheon is Wednesday at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63.
The event includes a silent auction at 10:30 a.m. and lunch and a presentation at 11:45 a.m. State Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, is scheduled to speak at the luncheon.
Aside from being a fundraiser, the event is designed to showcase the 23 agencies housed within the agency, as well as to thank the many sponsors who have collaborated with the agency during its 21 years.
The luncheon will also be a time to recognize the retirement of Patricia B. “Pat” Fennell, the agency's founder and CEO for the past 21 years, and to usher in a new chapter in the agency's history by welcoming new CEO Ruben Aragon.
“We know that at the agency, we really, really transform lives every day,” Fennell said. When she meets people who share their personal stories of how they were touched by agency, Fennell said she feels great fulfillment in her life's work.
“These kinds of stories, they just really give you incredible satisfaction that, even if nobody else knows, you know that in some way you have contributed in some fashion to make people's lives better,” she said.
For her retirement, Fennell said she's doing things she didn't have the time for during her busy career. She's taking dance and sports classes and getting involved in a new church. She also hopes to travel more now.
Fennell founded the agency in 1991. It was started as a task force funded by United Way to create a new agency to serve the needs of the growing Latino community in Oklahoma City.
From a meager starting budget of $42,000 per year, the agency has grown to include 23 programs for the community and to operate on a more substantial $2.5 million budget. The programs offer everything from health screenings, a senior citizen center, a three-star award winning child development center, a college scholarship program and even a clinic for tattoo removal.
Fennell said she'd been considering retirement for some time but felt compelled to make sure the agency was positioned with solid programs and a great board of directors. She knew it was important, too, to find someone who shared her passion and vision for the Latino community.
“So with all those ingredients together, I felt like the time was right for me to set my retirement date,” Fennell said. Former board member Ruben Aragon was selected to replace Fennell when she retired on Aug. 1.
Aragon's background is in business. With his Harvard MBA and many years working in the corporate business world, Aragon has developed a business acumen that Fennell said she considered vital to the agency in its current state.