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Lazos Latinos
Profile: Cristina Benitez

GatewayCommon Ground
Volume 28, Issue 1
(Summer 2000)

Noting the importance of "giving something back" with a special focus on the Latino community, Cristina Benitez says she is happy to serve as a Gateway Foundation member and Club 1000 donor.

I learned many things from my parents, among them the importance of respect for all human beings and the value of making a contribution to society, she recalls.

Cristina is a Puerto Rican-American whose father had a distinguished career as a naval officer, and because of that and her own interest in traveling, she has lived all over the world. Today, she is proud to call Chicago her home, where 14.2% of the population is Latino. Cristina is the president and founder of Lazos Latinos, a Hispanic marketing firm which helps companies advertise and market their products and services to the Latino community both locally and nationally.

"Ever since Michael Darcy won me over with his passion and enthusiasm about Gateway's mission, I have become an ardent believer," she notes. "The service that Gateway provides is critical for the youth of our country. Along with taking control over the violent consequence of guns, we need to stamp out drugs in our communities. Once we can lick these two problems, America will be a much safer place!"

"Despite the good economics we're in, substance abuse remains an all to important force in many communities, including the ethnic populations, so Gateway plays a vital role in getting out there and helping people turn their lives around, " Cristina said.

She expresses the hope that Gateway will garner more recognition for it efforts in fighting substance abuse, expand its good work to other states and continue educating young people about the risks of using drugs.

Cristina applauded recent efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community. "Part of Gateway's success, it seems to me, is its willingness to recognize the changing demography of this country and forge partnerships with grass roots organizations, churches, businesses and other groups in a common cause to fight substance abuse." One of the ways in which she is doing this is by working to increase Latino board membership to reflect this diversity.

Asked how she would go about recruiting others to get involved with Gateway, Cristina responded that she would take them on a tour of our sites to see firsthand the power of rehabilitation. "Like me, they would be most impressed by the young client's progress, their will to improve their lives and the professionalism and care of Gateway's staff," she said.

In addition to her busy work schedule and community involvement, Cristina relaxes by enjoying music. "I love music, allkinds of music," she laughs. "I also love dancing, bike-riding and most importantly, spending time with my family."


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