dropping off his son, Gil Miguel at his high school in East Islip, he decided to stop by the Long Beach Hospital for
a quick check up. He had experienced pain in his upper arm the evening before and Enilda recommended that he
check out the cause of this pain. The hospital staff determined that he had a small heart attack the day before and
he was promptly admitted. Gil is forever grateful to Enilda for encouraging him to go to the hospital.
Although the festival was implemented without Gil, (he was in the hospital), Círculo’s staff, Board members and
volunteers did the best they could even though there were many unforeseen challenges. For example, the parking
plan previously decided was not followed by the officials responsible for reasons not known to Gil. The Nassau
Beach Parking lot was closed when it was filled but no one directed traffic to the Town of Hempstead Parking lot
as per our plan which was adjacent. (We had obtained permission from the Town).
Without being able to use the other space people began parking wherever they could find a spot. The only way
around was through the streets on Lido Beach and on Lido Boulevard itself. The situation resulted in many
complaints by the residents of Lido Beach. We, of course, were blamed for this situation. Nassau County closed
the site to us for the following year so we could not use this site again for our festival.
The event was attended by more than 10,000 people during three days. There were no incidents; however
the complaints from the people of Lido Beach stopped the rights of the Hispanic Community, a non-profit
organization, from using public property. At that time we thought of finding another venue for the festival.
Fighting the County needed time, effort, funds and resources we did not have.
This festival is still in the mind of many Hispanics who shared with Gil all the time how fantastic it was to hear
Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias in our backyard. Gil’s heart attack deprived him from that experience and
for resolving the parking challenges. On Saturday night, May 17th, Gil Bernardino was taken by ambulance to
St. Francis Hospital from Long Beach Hospital. He asked the ambulance driver to bring him inside the festival
where Enrique was singing. The drivers opened the back door of the ambulance for some moments and Gil was
able to enjoy Enrique singing and see Círculo’s staff. After the concert, close to 1 am, Enrique Iglesias stopped at
the hospital on his way to Manhattan to see Gil in Saint Francis Hospital. It was a beautiful gesture.
During the summer of 1996, a tragic fatal car accident occurred and Círculo’s beloved Board President, Olga
Montenora passed away. Olga had provided instrumental support for many years to the organization and the
community. Her death was a great loss that still resonates deeply in our hearts. She will be missed forever. We
continue to be inspired by her kindness, generosity and compassion.
Círculo expanded programs in 1997 including its housing programs as well as programs for individuals living with
HIV and AIDS. The agency continued to operate out of its offices in Long Beach and Hempstead. In addition with
the recent passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, (IRCA), by President Reagan, in November of 1986,
funding was available to support immigrants and help them legalize their status.
Congress established the State Legalization Impact Assistance Grants (SLIAG) as part of the Immigration Reform and
Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. SLIAG was intended to reimburse state and local agencies for the costs of providing
public assistance, public health, and education services and to ensure basic health, welfare, and education services for
eligible legalized aliens. Círculo’s program provided educational support to immigrants. The agency had hundreds of
participants in the program; the program was the largest on Long Island at the time. Barbara Dubow Bernardino was
instrumental in obtaining this funding for Círculo.
The agency’s Supported Housing Program for individuals living with a mental health diagnosis was approved around
1997 by the New York State Office of Mental Health. This program provided a subsidy to individuals living with
a mental health diagnosis. While this program did not enable the agency to purchase housing, it provided rental
subsidies to housing participants, enabling them to live independently.
Círculo’s Ryan White Transportation Program with United Way began around 1997 as well. This program was the
only program of its kind and provided transportation assistance to individuals living with HIV and AIDS enabling
them to get to their medical appointments through taxis, gas cards or MetroCards.
Services were also expanded to provide rental assistance to individuals living with HIV and AIDS. A program through
United Way enabled the organization to provide rental assistance to individuals in rental arrears who lived with HIV
With the success of the Mega Festival in Nassau Beach, we were enthusiastic about organizing our festival for 1997.
Choosing a venue was a challenge. We were not given permission to do the festival in Nassau Beach and so we looked
for a new space. In the end we choose a site in Brooklyn, Marshal Fields. The venue was not ideal because it was far
from many people on Long Island, our community, but we thought we would be able to publicize the event and that
people would come. Once again we featured different international orchestras and food vendors. The people did not
come as we expected and as a result the organization did not raise funds as we had hoped.