SAFETY HARBOR — Ramon Carrion was 4 or 5 when he moved from Santurce, Puerto Rico, to Patterson, N.J. He couldn't speak English. His parents were poor.
"They were looked upon as foreigners, as different," he said. "They had a tough time."
Carrion, who lives in Safety Harbor, has never forgotten that experience. He carried it with him to Rutgers University, where he earned political science and law degrees. And he's carried it with him on his current job as an immigration attorney.
For the last decade, he has donated free legal assistance to Pinellas County Hispanics, helping them navigate legal hurdles and counseling them on everything from wage rights to housing.
"I've been there," said Carrion, 65. "I know how it feels. That's the inner fuel, the emotional fuel that's caused me to help."
That volunteerism has not gone unnoticed and last week, Gov. Charlie Crist named Carrion the Point of Light winner, an award that recognizes Floridians who demonstrate exemplary community service.
"Ramon has been a beacon of compassion and legal guidance for the Hispanic community in Pinellas County," Crist said in a statement announcing the honor. "The time he has devoted to reaching out and helping his Hispanic neighbors speaks to his humane and generous nature."
Carrion said he was honored and humbled by the award.
"Those of us who can climb out of poverty have a duty to help the people coming up," he said.
Rodney Thrash can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4167.