CINCINNATI — For decades, the Hispanic community has contributed a lot to the American culture from food to music and celebrations.

What You Need To Know

  • Luz Elena Schemmel is the Santa Maria Community Services Wellness and Outreach Director

  • For more than a decade, Schemmel has helped coordinate initiatives to improve the Hispanic community

  • One of those initiatives is the free food bank, which started during COVID-19

  • Santa Maria Services offers free Hispanic food and other resources to those who need it

In an effort to honor those contributions, people celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. An Ohio woman is doing all she can to show her appreciation for the Hispanic community. 

Food distribution day at Santa Maria Community Services is a big deal for many people. Chiles, jalapenos and other Hispanic favorites are on the menu.

Wellness and outreach director Luz Elena Schemmel is the lead on this initiative.

“We partnered with other agencies to start food distribution and we did a lot, several large events, in partnership with the rec center, and Holy Family and we had like 700 boxes,” said Schemmel.

It’s a service they’ve been offering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help Hispanics in Price Hill. The neighborhood was hit hard in terms of COVID-19 cases — one of the highest in the city of Cincinnati. She and her team wanted to continue those efforts even after the pandemic.

“After we finished those, we continued receiving donations here in the office and people know that they can come on Tuesdays and Thursdays to receive food,” she said.

Schemmel said they serve, on average, close to 40 to 50 families per week, and she said it gives her joy knowing she can help so many in the community. 

“We’re helping our neighbors and everybody is part of the community,” she said. 

Giving back is always special to Schemmel, but even more so during Hispanic heritage month — a time to celebrate and reflect on the contributions Hispanics have made to America.

“You prepare special meals, special dishes and you celebrate with music and things that we celebrate as a culture,” she said.

Schemmel said she looks forward to continuing to serve the community and making sure Hispanics are provided the same opportunities as everyone else. 

“If you empower and give tools to the families that just makes the neighborhood better,” she said.