PORTLAND — When the City Council recognizes a city employee of the month, the honoree usually says “thank you” and accepts the award with a smile.

This month’s honoree, Nelida Berke, took the opportunity at Monday’s council meeting to make an impassioned plea to the public.

Berke is a community health outreach worker in the city’s health and human services department. She was recognized for her outstanding service to the local Latino community.

Berke, who is from Peru, accepted the award on behalf of all Latinos in Maine, especially those working for local food producers, cleaning companies, restaurants and construction firms.

“I truly believe they are the ones who deserve special recognition and my respect for all the hard work that they have been doing for this country and their families,” Berke said, her voice shaking with emotion.

“They have my respect for working from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., working two or even three different jobs, in order to support their families,” Berke said. “They prove that Latinos not only work hard, but also meet and exceed standards on their jobs.”

Berke asked the public for two things on behalf of the Latino community: a chance to prove themselves and respect for the work they do.

“Because we have a lot to give the U.S. economy and society, and if you give us a chance, trust me, you won’t be disappointed,” Berke said. “We are also human beings and we respect you and we love this country.”

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