Mercedes Chamber honors community members at annual awards banquet

MERCEDES — Dr. Barbra Baggerly-Hinojosa sat at a table with her family and friends enjoying the evening as she waited to accept her award.

She was being recognized as Woman of the Year for the city of Mercedes.

“The banquet is an important event for the community,” Baggerly-Hinojosa said. “The chamber does this every year and it’s a highlight of the community.”

For nearly 40 years the Mercedes Chamber of Commerce has hosted its annual chamber awards banquet to recognize its members and people in the community.

The winners for this year’s awards went to Luis Hector Saldana, Baggerly-Hinojosa, Rudy Rodriguez, Armando Saldana, Jackie Valdez, Brett Oberthaler, Smoking on the Rio and Payne Auto Group.

All nominations were selected for their community achievements, all civic contributions, involvements including chamber, civic, service clubs, groups, organizations, church and schools for the year of 2016.

Hinojosa said she was very excited to find out she was nominated for the award this year.

“I’m humbled, the work I do is a collective effort with family and the community,” Hinojosa said. “I accept this award as a group.”

Hinojosa is the founder of Leadership Empowerment Group and the publisher of the Mercedes Enterprise newspaper.

“Our vision and mission is to make families, communities and organizations stronger,” Hinojosa said.

Mercedes Chamber President Raquel Gomez said it’s always exciting to recognize people from the community and surprising them with the chamber award for all their good work.

She said this year’s recipients were surprised and excited to be nominated.

The event drew nearly 200 people. The banquet took place Wednesday night at the Frances Cooper Event Center at the Rio Grande Valley Stock show grounds.

The keynote speaker of the event was Congressman Vicente Gonzalez.

Gonzalez talked about his recent experience in Washington D.C. and what it’s like working in the Capitol.

The Chamber also revisited their projects from 2016 and gave a sneak peak to some of the city’s upcoming projects before they handed out their awards.

“The chamber is looking forward to another active year,” said Raquel Gomez, Mercedes Chamber president.

“There are a lot of things going on in Mercedes and we’re going to do whatever we can to help new and existing businesses.”

Mercedes resident Armando Saldana knows all about that.

He received the contributing artist’s award for founding Nuevo Barrio Records, where he helps young music artists record their songs on the weekends.

And in the evenings, Saldana trains children in the Kajukenbo Gaylord Method martial arts, the perfected art of street fighting.

He dedicated his award from the chamber to his father Armando R. Saldana who taught him music, his aunt Minnie for sending him to guitar lessons and for his friend John Valdivia who introduced him to martial arts in the 70s.

“I like to help others and teach what I know that I have learned through the years,” said Armando Saldana, contribution to the arts recipient.

“It feels great to be appreciated and recognized for what I love to do.”