"His Story": Sam Sandos
Manual “Sam” Sandos was born in Denver, Colorado on June 16th, 1927, the son of a Greek coal miner and a Hispanic mother. He was a lifelong resident of the city’s west side.
In 1941, at the age of 14, he joined the 82nd Airborne division as a paratrooper (though lying about his age). During his combat in Europe, he was frequently decorated for heroism. He spent his final year in the service at Fort Carson, Colorado, where he successfully fought the loss of his legs to battlefield frostbite.
While recuperating, he met Ethel McCance, his wife of 41 years and mother of his nine children. Despite being a decorated U.S. Army veteran, Sam and Ethel were rejected as purchasers of a home in the Barnum neighborhood of Denver due to a covenant that prohibited Hispanics. They soon bought a home two blocks away where they raised their children as well as sheltered fourteen foster children over the course of forty years.
Sam was a lifetime member of the Parish of Our Lady of Presentation Church, where he established the Buddy Club for members of his local Knights of Columbus. He also served as an officer, founder or board member for organizations and groups such as Partners, Savio House, the Girls Clubs of America, Samaritan House, Big Brothers, Police Athletic League, the Career Opportunity Center, Beaver Ranch, League of United Latin American Citizens, the G.I. Forum, Mass Media, and many others.
Sandos started his professional life as a building and brick contractor, but it was his love of children that led him to community service and later into politics. By the early 1960s, Sam was establishing Youth Centers for Westside kids. Mayor Currigan appointed him as a special assistant for Youth Affairs in the wake of the unrest that plagued the community at that time. In 1975 he was elected to the Denver City Council representing District 3 located on Denver’s West side. As the first Hispanic council member, Sam faced the task of building a bridge between Hispanic and white residents. During his 12 years and three terms in office, he was a leader in establishing the Auraria Higher Education Center and the Westside Health Center. His selfless efforts, devotion and grass roots activism brought his constituents and District 3 increased development as well as neighborhood awareness and interests.
Sam did more than his share of community service. Yet bestowing the value of volunteerism within his children was his most important service. He witnessed how his commitment to the community was contagious among his progeny and realized that recognizing volunteerism would inspire volunteerism. His creation of the Hispanic Annual Salute became his legacy that continues to this day.
Today, the Hispanic culture is unmistakably strong and active in Denver. Census data indicates the Hispanic population grew to 53 million in 2012, a 50% increase over 2000 and nearly six times the population in 1970. Colorado is one of only 9 states consecutively measuring Hispanics as the largest minority group since 1970 and the growth is driven by the children and grandchildren of immigrants. New data also indicates a greater share of recent Hispanic high school graduates are enrolled in college than whites, with 49% of young Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in college and only 47% of white non-Hispanic high school graduates enrolled. Today, 2.4 million Hispanics are enrolled in college and Hispanics make up 19% of all college students ages 18 to 24.
Hispanic Annual Salute continues to enjoy long standing relationships with many of the state’s most charitable companies. Entravision Communications, FirstBank Holding Company, Wells Fargo Bank, Coors, Xcel Energy, and many others have sponsored HAS efforts for 20+ years. Through success and failures, the Hispanic Annual Salute is a rich and rewarding tradition and continues to be a debt-free, all volunteer organization boasting no overhead. This insures, without a doubt, that every scholarship meets its obligations until the recipient graduates and charitable donations are dedicated to student scholarships.