By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
VINELAND — Sheena Santiago loves Vineland and has given much of her life serving the city as a councilwoman, a small business owner and now as special events coordinator under Mayor Anthony Fanucci.
She told Front Runner New Jersey.com recently she loves giving back to a community that has given so much to her and her family over the years and where she raised her son.
Santiago was the driving force behind some of the city’s most recent high-profile events, such as the parade to honor Vineland native and Kansas City Chiefs star running back Isiah Pacheco in April, which filled the grandstand of Vineland High School’s Gittone Stadium.
She also organized the City of Vineland’s first Juneteenth celebration and its first Vineland Music Festival on the steps of City Hall in June. Those are just a small listing of events Santiago has been involved with that has shaped Vineland’s quality of life in a positive way.
“Sheena has really stepped into the role and has done a fantastic job,” Mayor Anthony Fanucci said. “She has been a community volunteer for decades. But she has a heart for Vineland and she is truly an advocate for the city.
“Sheena’s very much like myself, race doesn’t matter, age doesn’t matter and gender doesn’t matter. It’s all about making the best possible experience for the people. She really goes above and beyond to do that. When she sets her sights on something, forget about it, she’s accomplishing that goal.”
Santiago came to Vineland in the early 1970s from Puerto Rico to help her family. She said she already had relatives here in the area but immediately fell in love with the city and wanted to get involved.
She ran her own beauty salon for years, where women could come in to get their hair and nails done, etc. Santiago said she loved making people smile and earned a great deal of personal joy from it.
Santiago served on Vineland City council as one of the few Latinas to ever win elected office in that position for two terms. She said she left city council to raise her son because she felt that was her priority.
Now working for the city, Santiago is now taken another step to serve Vineland. Darwin Cooper, who sits on the Cumberland County Planning Board, said he was always impressed with Santiago’s own vision of Vineland, regardless of whether she was an elected official, serving as a volunteer or a city employee.
Fanucci said when the special events coordinator position came open, it was a no-brainer for him to have Santiago serve in that role giving her years of dedicated service.
“She is just wonderful,” Fanucci said. “She helps us with so many different things. She has put in countless hours that she’s not even compensated and doesn’t want to be compensated for. She just takes so much pride in what she does.”
Santiago said she has always found joy being involved with the city. Fanucci and others in Vineland said the city has been equally blessed for not only Santiago’s involvement, but of the positive and can-do spirit she brings in everything she does.
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