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Rockford man bringing the community together through food, kids and culture

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Manny Salgado

ROCKFORD (WREX) — It's not too hard to run into Manuel Salgado in Rockford.

Whether you bump into him at a restaurant or in a first person video on Facebook, this Rockford native more than keeps himself busy.

Salgado wears many hats across the Stateline, but his roots were planted in youth development.

In 2017, he started a non-profit organization known as MASA.

It stands for Mexican Americans Striving to Get Ahead, focused on educating kids in both entrepreneurial and cultural skills.

"It was just another way to bring another side of our culture to them which maybe they aren't learning from TV or movies or school or from other kids," Salgado said.

MASA is just the beginning of Salgado cementing himself as community leader.

His next venture took him to the world of food, particularly our Stateline restaurants.

Salgado has created several food related events over the last few years, including Tamale Fest which produces tens of thousands of tamales for customers and gives exposure to vendors in the Rockford area.

Most of these events are set up along Rockford's Miracle Mile, which has left an impact on the organization's leadership.

Miracle Mile executive director Paula Olson nominated Salgado based on his hard work and compassion for the community through these events.

"He provides a great voice for people who can't speak for themselves. He's just very generous with his time and his help," Olson said.

Salgado's love of food took him online as well.

Last December, he started the Rockford & Stateline Foodies page on Facebook.

Today, the page has over 6,000 followers as Salgado pops into restaurants across the 815 to support them through the pandemic.

"The one thing we have in common is we all have to eat," Salgado said.

"It means a lot when you break bread with somebody you don't know."

All of the effort and enthusiasm Salgado has for his community was ignited years ago where he nearly lost his life.

He was shot four times, twice in the head, leaving him to learn how to walk and talk again.

Through that scare and struggle, a new value of life was born and a strong desire to do as he could in whatever time he had left.

"It made me realize life is too short. We have a very small time on Earth to make an impact," Salgado said.

"I love this city. I love the people in it. I love that we are bouncing back better than ever."

If you want to check out the Rockford & Stateline Foodies page, click here.

IF you know anyone like Manuel who is doing everything they can to make our home a better place, you can fill out a nomination form here or you can email eleake@wrex.com.

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at eleake@wrex.com or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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