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City commemorates Cesar Chavez Rec Center, honors Ovelia Campos

By Floyd Miller

 

 

oAnne Campos-Tolentino, center, is surrounded by family and friends as she holds the picture of her mother, Ovelia Campos, that will be on display at the newly renamed Cesar Chavez Recreation Center.

On March 31, 2022, officials from the City of Abilene, The Hispanic Leadership Council and LULAC #605, came together to rename the recreation center in Sears Park as the Cesar Chavez Recreation Center. They also posthumously honored Ovelia Campos, a long-time educator and a strong supporter of the Sears Park center, with a plaque during the ceremony.

The event took place on what would have been Mr. Chavez’s 95th birthday.

Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams visits with School Board member Billy Enriquez at the recent ceremony commemorating the Cesar Chavez Recreation Center in Sears Park.

At the commemoration, Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams read a proclamation naming March 31 as Cesar Chavez Day in the City of Abilene.

Chavez was an American labor leader and civil rights activist. Along with Dolores Heurta, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), which later merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to become the United Farm Workers (UFW) labor union.

Abilene’s original Cesar Chavez Recreation Center on Cherry Street was closed in 2014 because it needed extensive renovations.

Last year, the City of Abilene Parks and Recreations Board approved a request to rename the recreation center in Sears Park, at 2250 Ambler Ave., in honor of Chavez.

Sammy Garcia, president of the Hispanic Leadership Council, said that they worked with LULAC #605 to help bring the name change about.

“Sears Recreation Center is a historical location,” he said. “It is the place Hispanic students went in 1969 during the walk outs from Abilene High in 1969. The Cesar Chavez name is a better fit for the community.”

Billy Enriquez also spoke about the name change.

“Mr. Chavez is a national figure; our community is mainly Hispanic. It’s nice to have someone that you can identify with in your community,” Enrquez said. “We need to recognize that all citizens have contributed to this country.”

Enriquez also was a friend of Campos, who died in October 2021, and spoke about her contributions to the community.

“She was an advocate for equality,” he said. “She helped develop the Sears Revitalization plan; she was the heart and soul of that plan. She was a beautiful woman with a tremendous amount of influence; she will be missed.”

Campos’ family and many members of the community were in attendance for the event.

The Hispanic Leadership Council presented Campos’ daughter, JoAnne Campos-Tolentino, with a plaque honoring her mother.

Garcia said it is appropriate to recognize Campos as a local leader. She was an Abilene native and spent much of her life working for the betterment of the community.
Her portrait will be on display at the Cesar Chavez Recreation Center.

Plaque honoring Ovelia Campos, a long-time educator and a strong supporter of the Sears Park center, presented during the ceremony.

Cutline, top photo: JoAnne Campos-Tolentino, center, is surrounded by family and friends as she holds the picture of her mother, Ovelia Campos, that will be on display at the newly renamed Cesar Chavez Recreation Center.

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