Marlene Laó-Collins
Marlene Laó-Collins

Marlene Laó-Collins, executive director for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, will be honored as “parade godmother” for the annual Puerto Rican Parade Aug. 17 in Trenton.

Laó-Collins is among several honorees of Puerto Rican descent being recognized during the parade, including parade godfather Samuel J. Kanig, a community organizer, filmmaker, musician and activist; honoree German Ortiz, an electrician and security businessman; honoree Rev. Karen Hernandez-Granzen, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Trenton, and co-leader of the Arts, Music and Culture Committee of the City of Trenton; honoree Luis M. Reyes, deputy director of the park rangers for Mercer County Park Commission, sheriff’s guard for Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and Trenton Police Department patrolman/detective; and Juan A. Rivera III, captain for the Trenton Fire Department.

Appointed to executive director in 2011, Laó-Collins has led CCDOT through many changes, including providing substance abuse and mental health services; rapidly responding to long-term needs of Superstorm Sandy survivors across the four-county Diocese; implementing an award-winning housing program in two counties to assist the homeless in finding permanent, affordable housing; and expanding trauma-informed practices in addressing domestic violence, abuses against children and strengthening families.

Prior to her appointment at CCDOT, she was the director of Social Concerns for the New Jersey Catholic Conference for 12 years and served with the state Department of Human Services, engaging in a number of initiatives to improve services for at-risk populations, including people with disabilities and the elderly.  

Laó-Collins has served on numerous boards, including the Trenton Board of Education, NJ Advocacy Network to End Homelessness; the NJ Regional Equity Coalition; the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ and the NJ Immigration Policy Network. She was co-founder of the Mercer County Hispanic Association and the Latina Women’s Council.