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PHOTO — Mayor Nancy R. Rossi presents Sammy Rivera with an embroidered “Hispanic American of the Year” jacket at West Haven’s third Hispanic Heritage Celebration in the Harriet C. North Community Room of City Hall on Friday, Sept. 24. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
WEST HAVEN, Sept. 25, 2021 — Sammy Rivera, a prominent Allingtown business owner known for his big heart and generous spirit, received West Haven’s Hispanic American of the Year award at the third Hispanic Heritage Celebration on Friday, Sept. 24.
Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and the West Haven Hispanic Heritage Committee recognized Rivera, a native of Cayey, Puerto Rico, during a midday ceremony in the Harriet C. North Community Room of City Hall. The event, traditionally held on the steps of City Hall, was moved indoors because of rain.
The committee bestows the award annually on a Hispanic resident who personifies service in West Haven’s thriving Hispanic American community. Last year’s ceremony was postponed because of the coronavirus.
At the 35-minute event, Rivera, who owns Budget Transmission Center at 950 Boston Post Road and Budget Car Wash at 936 Boston Post Road, honored his Puerto Rican lineage with dozens of friends and loved ones.
Along with descendants of folks from Puerto Rico and Latin America, he was also joined by an array of local and state officials, including City Council Chairman Ronald M. Quagliani, D-at large, as well as state Reps. Michael A. DiMassa, D-West Haven, and Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, who presented Rivera with a General Assembly citation on behalf of the city’s delegation.
Rivera, 44, told the crowd he was “completely honored” to accept the Hispanic American of the Year award and thanked the people who helped him along the way, a journey far from easy.
“I grew up very poor — I know what it was to drink powdered milk and government cheese,” said Rivera, who was born in Cayey, a mountain town and municipality in central Puerto Rico, and moved to New Haven’s Fair Haven neighborhood with his mother and brother in 1981 at age 4.
Rivera thanked his aunt in the audience, Violet Cedeño, whom he lived with after his mother died, and his wife, Mallery, who was unable to attend the ceremony because she is pursuing a degree in nursing. He also thanked his “amazing” employees and “wonderful” customers from both businesses, many of whom attended as well.
“I was grateful yesterday, I am grateful today, and I will be grateful tomorrow for all that I have and all that’s left for me to give,” Rivera said. “Thank you for believing in me.”
A Latin-flavored lunch after the event was provided by Tata’s Restaurant of Wallingford. Two cakes were provided by Costco of Milford.
In observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs through Oct. 15, West Haven recognizes the important legacy of Hispanic Americans and the inspiring contributions they have made to the culture and history of the United States.
Hispanics have had a profound and positive influence on the civic and cultural life of America, enhancing and shaping the national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their community.
Hispanic Heritage Month, which traces its roots to 1968, begins each year on Sept. 15, the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days during that period.
Rossi said Rivera epitomizes the noble qualities of serving his vibrant community and carrying on the proud traditions of Puerto Rico.
Rossi lauded the public-spirited Rivera, whom she called a man of faith and family, for his wholehearted devotion to the city and its robust Hispanic American community.
Rossi presented him with an embroidered “Hispanic American of the Year” jacket and a Puerto Rican flag. She also presented him with the first copy of West Haven’s newly published centennial book, “City of West Haven: Village to Town,” and WestHavenOpoly, the centennial version of the board game Monopoly.
The mayor then read a citation praising Rivera’s good works.
“I hope you reflect with pride on the enduring contributions you have made civically and culturally to our local identity,” Rossi said. “As a man of character, conviction, principle and wisdom, you personify the very best of West Haven.”
The cultural event also included remarks by Rossi’s executive assistant, Louis P. Esposito Jr., the master of ceremonies, and Joseph Rodriguez, the deputy state director of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s Hartford office.
Before a prayer by Planning and Zoning Commissioner Steven R. Mullins, Ana Garcia sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Puerto Rican national anthem, “La Borinqueña.”
Rodriguez said his friend Rivera’s “years of service” include donating toys amid the COVID-19 pandemic to the Three Kings Day celebration in January and supporting the hurricane relief effort in Puerto Rico.
Rivera moved to West Haven in 2005 when he purchased Budget Transmission.
His contributions to the city include serving as an alternate member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and a member of the Redevelopment Agency.
Rivera lives with his wife of six years and their two children on Hamilton Street in Allingtown. He also has three children from a previous marriage.
Watch the ceremony on West Haven YouTube.
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— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator
Mayor Nancy R. Rossi presents Sammy Rivera with an embroidered “Hispanic American of the Year” jacket at West Haven’s third Hispanic Heritage Celebration in the Harriet C. North Community Room of City Hall on Friday, Sept. 24. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Mayoral Executive Assistant Louis P. Esposito Jr., the master of ceremonies, opens the program with Rossi. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Ana Garcia sings the Puerto Rican national anthem, “La Borinqueña.” (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
City Planning and Zoning Commissioner Steven R. Mullins gives the invocation. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Joseph Rodriguez, the deputy state director of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s Hartford office, delivers remarks about his friend Rivera’s generous support of humanitarian causes affecting the Puerto Rican community. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Rivera receives a General Assembly citation from state Reps. Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, and Michael A. DiMassa, D-West Haven, on behalf of the city’s delegation. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Rivera is presented with a mayoral citation from Rossi for his contributions to West Haven’s Hispanic American community. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Rivera holds up Rossi’s gift of the first copy of West Haven’s newly published centennial book, “City of West Haven: Village to Town.” (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Rivera receives a Puerto Rican flag from Rossi. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
In his remarks, a grateful Rivera thanks the people who helped him on his journey. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)