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December 15, 2020
Fig Authentic: Councilwoman Olga Negron
“It’s my parents fault,” laughs Olga Negrón, community organizer, Bethlehem City Councilwoman and Community Liaison for HGSK Law Firm. Growing up in Puerto Rico, she watched her mother and father, dedicated Rotarians, collect and distribute supplies to those in need of hurricane relief. Passionate community advocates, they raised money for neighbors in need. “Today I am who I am because of my parents,” she says. “They taught me service before self.”
The youngest girl of eleven children, she learned early to find and use her voice. But she wasn’t fluent in spoken English before moving to Tallahassee, Florida, then Austin, Texas, as a young mother. It was in Florida that she learned English with a group of multilingual speakers through the local La Leche League, and felt firsthand the power of community support.” None of us felt embarrassed or afraid,” she says, “We were all trying to find a way to communicate.”
She moved to the Lehigh Valley in the late 1990s to raise her three children near family after a divorce, which was the right decision. But “we’ve gone through struggles here. From day one, I saw it”—in schools, community services, particularly among the Latinx community: how children were treated differently, as less than, with no expectations. “I decided that was going to be my fight,” she says. “That’s what I’ve been doing since. Trying to connect individuals to services and information, and help people realize a vision.”
As community liaison for HGSK Law Firm in Allentown, she’s involved in outreach and intake, and serves as an interpreter. Her history of engagement in the Valley makes her ideally suited to connect clients with necessary services. As COVID-19 spread in the spring, warehouse employees, many of whom are Latinx, required critical assistance with worker’s compensation. Olga answered the call.
Serving and representing the people of Bethlehem, through City Council or HGSK Law, on the board of the Bethlehem Area Public Library or at a local block party, is where Olga’s heart lies. “There are some beautiful partnerships in Bethlehem,” she says, “but there could be more. I’m hopeful that more and more people will feel comfortable, especially people of color, being a part of the community. But for that to happen, they need to feel welcomed, not just invited.”
Building strong communities requires communication and action, and a commitment to serving the public, exactly what Olga’s parents taught her. “When people ask me, what is your day like? I don’t know! No one day looks like any other,” she says. “I do what I feel needs to be done. Everything I can.”