February 12, 2003 News & Features » Cover Story

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Hispanic Chamber 

Marcelo and Barbara Cornicello for taking matters into their own hands.

Un beso grande to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Central Virginia.

The group, formed just last fall, has worked tirelessly as an advocate for the region's rapidly growing Hispanic community, despite having a miniscule budget and no office. In their deli on Midlothian Turnpike, founding members Marcelo and Barbara Cornicello take calls from people who need help with everything from school enrollment to legal representation. No problem's too small; take the case of a Hispanic family whose complaints about going a month without heat were ignored. The landlord told Barbara Cornicello he thought they were talking about the air conditioning -- "Maybe it was the language barrier," she says, a bit skeptically. Now, the heat is on. Meanwhile, chamber members are working with the city to find a place to set up shop permanently. "All we need is a little room to grow," says Chamber President Elsa Miller.

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