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CEO of Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce dies

ATLANTA - Sara Gonzalez, president and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, passed away Monday evening. Gonzalez, 72, suffered a heart attack, according to the GHCC Web site.

Under her leadership, GHCC grew from 172 members in 1996 to 1,500 members in 2007. She launched the Hispanic American Center for Economic Development, as well as three separate chambers of commerce for Argentine-Americans, Dominican-Americans and Ecuardorian-Americans.

Gonzalez' influence was felt across the state. Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed her to the Board of Directors of Hemisphere Inc. and the Latino Commission for a New Georgia. She also served on the organizing committee for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.

Throughout her career, Gonzalez was featured in Georgia Trend magazine's list of Notable Georgians, appeared in Atlanta Magazine's list of Georgia's Most Powerful and Influential Women and was named one of the 100 Most Influential Atlantans by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

"Sara was a true leader for the Hispanic community and an inspiration to us all," said Jim Maran, president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. "Her dedication and passion for advancing the Hispanic community and diversity as a whole served to better all, not only the Hispanic business community, but all the businesses in Gwinnett County and Georgia. Her passing is a great loss to our county and region."

Sandra Font, vice president of GHCC, will serve as interim president.

Gonzalez is survived by her three children, Luis, Ofelia and Isabel, and two grandchildren. Family members request that donations be made to HACED (www.haced.org) and Atlanta Pet Rescue (www.atlantapetrescue.org) in lieu of flowers. Patterson Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.