By Frank Whelan
In 1952 members of the Allentown Police Department were confronted with a problem. They had picked up a young man that needed medical attention. But he only spoke Spanish and they just could not find anyone in the community that did. Finally, at Sacred Heart Hospital a woman who worked in the housekeeping department who was Puerto Rican was found.
After that the police got to know Francisco Suarez, a laborer at Bethlehem Steel who acted as an interpreter. His wife later recalled that there were maybe 16 to 20 Puerto Ricans in the Allentown Bethlehem area at that time. Her husband worked at Bethlehem Steel, “because it was one of the few places that would hire Puerto Ricans.”
But in 2018 it is a different Allentown and Lehigh Valley, as members of the Allentown Rotary Club learned at there February 16th meeting from Victor Salicetti, chairman of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of the Lehigh Valley. Not only has the Hispanic population of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley grown dramatically but they are taking part in and forming many new businesses.
Salicetti himself is an example. He is the head of AmericaVan, a technical services company located in Bethlehem Township that offers services in audiovisual, digital signage, telecommunications, video surveillance, web development and information technology. Salicetti noted that the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2003 and since 2014 has been a part of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The Hispanic Chamber’s function is to encourage links between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic business community. It is also to make them aware of the potential market that the growing numbers of Hispanic represents.  Allentown was found to be the fastest growing city in Pennsylvania in the 2010 census and almost all of that was due to an increasing Hispanic population.      
Barb Bottita presented Barb Bigelow with her fifth Rotary International Foundation Paul Harris pin.
Barb and Nan greeted Katie Walter, Exectutive Director of SkillsUSA.
Katie is a former Rotarian from the Chester County area.