Samuel J Kanig is a community organizer, filmmaker, musician, and activist. Kanig, originally from Utuado, Puerto Rico studied in University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez prior to his move to Trenton, New Jersey in 2006. This is where he founded Galeria Casa Cultura, Trenton’s Latino art gallery and music studio focused on the development of Latino artist and musicians. He also became the President of the Puerto Rican Civic Association of Trenton New Jersey in 2014 where he led with a vision of celebrating culture while empowering the community. In Puerto Rico, Kanig is also a co-founder of a barbecue festival which is one of the largest festivals in the mountainous region of the island and is in its 14th year running.
Kanig has continuously worked in the community by partnering with local organizations and non-profits to continue developing, organizing and promoting programs and events with the Latino community in mind. His partnerships include Passage Theatre, ArtWorks Trenton, Smith Family Foundation, Trenton Police Department, Mercer County Community College and many more.
During the wake of Hurricane Maria, Kanig took action by organizing partnerships between local organizations and community leaders in Trenton and Mercer County. As a collective group of concerned citizens, a plan to collect donations and raise funds was created. Kanig traveled personally to Puerto Rico in representation of the Trenton community where he delivered funds collected by fundraisers spearheaded in Trenton. He met with many organizations on the ground working on reconstruction, food pantries as well as search and rescue work.
In 2018 Kanig became the first ever Community Fellow in-Residence at The College of New Jersey. In this role, Kanig has been able partner with faculty members at TCNJ to create a series of oral history projects that capture the Puerto Rican experience in Trenton as well as a short documentary narrating the stories behind the Puerto Rican Parade in Trenton and the important role it plays in our community. The TCNJ students have been a very lucrative part in these projects by providing their creative skills and embracing the culture throughout.
In January 2019, Kanig traveled to Puerto Rico with a group of students and staff from TCNJ’s Bonner Program in efforts to aid the island’s rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Maria. The work performed by the volunteers ranged from repurposing an abandoned school to serve as a community center, to planting dozens of trees in a national reserve forest. During this trip, Kanig served as the cultural liaison providing the students with an educational experience with a focus on life on the island before and after Hurricane Maria.
Locally, Kanig continues to organize cultural events, Puerto Rican heritage celebrations, and public art and beautification projects. He remains active in movements nationwide geared towards advocacy and social justice of Puerto Rico. His work is inspired in the preservation of the Puerto Rican culture, traditions and the empowerment of our community
Diocese of Trenton
Marlene Lao-Collins was appointed Executive Director of Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton (CCDOT) in January of 2011. CCDOT manages 600 employees, and 250 volunteers serving over 100,000 people each year, covering the four counties of the Diocese. Since CCDOT entered the start of its second centennial, Marlene and her team have navigated through significant changes in providing substance abuse and mental health services; rapidly responded to long-term needs of Sandy survivors across the five Diocese; implemented an award winning housing program in two counties to assist the homeless realize their dream to obtain affordable and permanent housing; and have expanded trauma-informed practices in addressing domestic violence, abuses against children and strengthening families, and have been awarded the pilot grant with the State of NJ to implement the Certified Community Behavioral Center in Mercer and an expansion grant from SAMSHA to extend our service to other parts of Mercer and Burlington. We continue to offer assistance through our food pantries and immigration services the hallmarks of Catholic Charities mission. In addition to the many immigration services we offer, we also assist unaccompanied minors reunite with their families as well as victims/survivors of human trafficking reintegrate into society. The team is mission driven focused on creating centers of excellence which reflex our Catholic values to restore dignity and independence to individuals and families, especially the poor and vulnerable. Marlene and her team wants CC to be the provider of choice for consumers, funders, donors, volunteers and potential employees so Catholic Charities can continue its mission into the next century and beyond.
Prior to her appointment at CCDOT, Marlene was the Director of Social Concerns for the New Jersey Catholic Conference (NJCC) for twelve years where she recommended public policy positions and legislative issues of concern to the Catholic Bishops of NJ and presented those concerns to state legislators.
For ten years, Ms. Lao-Collins served as Executive Associate to the Deputy Director of the New Jersey Department of Human Services where she was engaged in a number of initiatives to improve services for at-risk populations, including people with disabilities and the elderly. Additionally, she worked with Children’s Futures New Jersey to bring to fruition a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to incorporate interventions and strategies that would improve children’s health and well-being.
Ms. Lao-Collins has served on numerous boards including the Trenton Board of Education, NJ Advocacy Network to End Homelessness; St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton; the NJ Regional Equity Coalition; the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ; AARP Executive Council and the NJ Immigration Policy Network. She was co-founder of the Mercer County Hispanic Association and the Latina Women’s Council.
She earned a B.A. in Business Administration from Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Marlene’s greatest blessings was to be married to Michael Collins, who passed away May 4, 2019, for 36 years and my two sons, Eric Michael and Abraham Francis.
German Ortiz was born and raised in Isabela, Puerto Rico. He migrated to Trenton, NJ along with his wife, Marta Ortiz, of 42 years. With hard work and perseverance, he has achieved incredible success in the construction industry in the state of New Jersey. He has operated his electrical and security business for over 30 years. He attributes his success to the spiritual support of the Almighty and the moral support of the late Father Raymond Bianchi. In addition to being an electrician, German has also attained licensure as a sub code official.
Amongst the many years dedicated to his professional career, German’s community work also spans for over 30 years. He began his community work in Isabela, PR for CANII (Centro de Ayuda a Ninos con Impedimentos de Isabela). Fueled by the lack of services offered to families with children with disabilities, he began efforts in a multitude of fundraising events to help fund the center. When German moved to Trenton, along with other local community leaders, he began the groundwork in continuing to provide support for the center in a variety of ways. Today, CANII is now a recognized entity and receives funds from the government for its daily operations. German has also been a leader within the organization, Desfile Puertorriqueno de Trenton. In 1997, German accepted the nomination as President. He took on the challenge to re-invigorate the passion of the Puerto Rican culture in the community. However, when Hurricane Georges struck the islands of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, along with the support of previous administrations, he shifted gears and began mobilizing a community-wide relief effort to assist the people. Accompanied with Aida Montalvo, German began his two-week journey in witnessing the aftermath of the storm and delivering the funds to the people directly.
Since then, German has continued to offer his support in a variety of ways to many organizations. He mostly enjoys spending time with his children, Jayson Ortiz, German Ortiz Jr, and Amaryllis Ortiz and his grandchildren, Arianna Ortiz, Jayson Ortiz, Jovanni Ortiz, Eddie Rivera and Makayla Rivera. He is a wonderful role model for them, and he hopes they will continue his legacy of community work and support in the years to come. German’s children and grandchildren feel blessed to have him as the patriarch of their family, and appreciate his example of selfless hard work and dedication. He has been and always will be a source of pride for his family.
Rev. Karen Hernandez-Granzen
Rev. Karen Hernandez-Granzen has served as pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church of Trenton, New Jersey for over two decades. As Co-Leader of the Arts, Music and Culture Committee of the City of Trenton, she seeks to ensure that creative ways are used to celebrate the history of the city to educate children and youth. As commissioner of Princeton’s Civil
Rights Commission, she seeks to ensure that issues negatively impacting residents are addressed. She is the inaugural 2017 Community Partner-in-Residence, of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, Princeton University. She is the Co-chair of United Mercer Interfaith Organization, Vice Chair of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and
chaplain of the Bethany House of Hospitality: A Young Adult Intentional Community. She was a Presbyterian Church (USA) delegate to the Jubilee Word Council of Churches in 1998, in Zimbabwe. She is Presbyterian Church, USA 2018 Women of Faith Award recipient.
Luis M. Reyes, affectionately know as Louie, was born in Trenton, New Jersey. Son of Isabel Valle and Manuel Reyes he is 1 of 8 siblings.
Louie is the father of three wonderful children (Luis Jr., Emanuel and Lauren) and has three Grandchildren (Carter, Isabel and Lucas).
He grew up in Trenton where he attended Trenton Central High School. Louis also attended Baptist College at Charleston, South Carolina.
Presently Louis is the Deputy Director of the Park Rangers at the Mercer County Park Commission.
He worked with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office as a Sheriff’s Guard. He served his community as a Trenton Police Department Patrolman. He was promoted to the Detective Bureau where he worked with numerous juveniles in the Youth Section. Louis also enjoyed working in the Community Policing Unit and Bike Unit of the police department.
Louis received Chief's Awards for his involvement in the community, He established a mentor program within the Police Department for kids at risk, and he now sits on the Board of Directors of the Lawrenceville School Camp where he has served as a recruiter for the past 18 years. Louis loves going out into the neighborhoods of Trenton and surrounding townships looking for kids to send to camp. As a result of his efforts with at risk kids he was able to get four Trenton area youths into Lawrenceville Prep School on academic scholarships!
Juan A. Rivera III, is the son of the late Juan A. Rivera Jr and Luz Rivera. He is a lifelong resident of Trenton for 40 plus years. Juan has two brothers and a sister. He is married to his lovely wife Sandy and has eight wonderful children and two grandchildren. Juan is currently a Captain on the Trenton Fire Department where he dedicated the last 20 years of his life. Although having lost many loved ones throughout the years, he will never forget the lessons taught to him by his late father. The most important thing to Juan is the embrace and love of his Puerto Rican culture.