Indo-American Center Announces Expansion Plans at 21st Annual Benefit Gala

Chicago, IL: On Sunday, November 13th, 2011, The Indo American Center’s (IAC) hosted its annual benefit gala at Oak Brook Marriott Hotel, 1401 West 22nd Street, Oak Brook, Illinois. The Indo-American Center special guests, sponsors, and other members of the community gathered to celebrate and support the IAC’s accomplishments and aspirations. $225,000 was raised for new vision through space and program expansion projects. Over 325 people attend this event. The evening was full of exciting short speeches, delicious dinner and entertainment by Artists from Anila Sinha Foundation, who presented traditional Kathak dance.

“A Portrait of the Community” was this year’s gala theme, signifying the broader community that IAC works in and with. “We exist to serve the Community,” said IAC Executive Director, Jay Luthra”. “We would like to showcase our work, explain why some in the community need our help, and why the others in the community may wish to support us so we may continue to provide the help,” he continued. IAC teamwork and community collaboration have been, and will continue to be, keys to accomplishing IAC’s primary goal to continue to generate the necessary funds that will enable the Center’s work to continue”.

He further stated “the Center has plans for programs expansion as well as space expansion to accommodate its exponentially increasing client base. The proceeds of this year’s banquet will help the IAC accomplish its goals of developing and improving the Center to meet the community’s growing need of IAC services and facilities. This annual benefit gala is an opportunity for more fortunate community members to support the IAC’s effort of bringing the isolated South Asian immigrant population out of poverty and into the larger society by providing the necessary skills and services to do so”.

Ravi Baichwal, Anchor, ABC7 News, was the keynote speaker of the evening. In 2008, he won the Chicago Emmy Award for best anchor (Chicago/Midwest) from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He has previously been an integral part of CTV news in Canada and has also done extensive coverage on the world of news and politics. He has volunteers with various charitable organizations dedicated to Childhood Welfare, AIDS, and health issues.

Ms. Michelle Relerford of NBC5 news who was the MC of the evening, started out by welcoming the audience which was followed by the IAC President, Mr. Prem Balani’s address.

He began by recognizing the distinguished guests of honor which included Governor Pat Quinn, U.S. Congressman Danny Davis, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein, 50th Ward Alderman Deborah Silverstein, 59th Ward Alderman Joe Moore and Candidate for U.S. Congress Raja Krishnamurthy and Mayor of Oak Brook, Gopal Lalmalani. Community leaders attending the banquet included Mafat Patel, Dinesh Gandhi, Sunny Gabhawala, Sohan Joshi, Dr. Azher Quadar, Dr. Mohammed Hamid, Sher Rajput, Salman Aftab, and Tahir Hussain.

He spoke about the visit of former President of India, His Excellency Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to the IAC this past April. He said “For nearly half a century, Dr. Kalam has inspired individuals across the world with his commitment to humanity, education, and scientific progress. It was a dream come true when Dr. Kalam entered Indo-American Center and met with our clients, students, teachers and staff”.

The day after his visit, Dr. Kalam shared, “Yesterday, I visited the Center and I witnessed the efforts being made in the direction of social service….Each classroom was filled with eager learners from very diverse backgrounds and belonging to different parts of the globe. Each classroom showed the spirit of “What can I give?” each of the teachers there are transforming the lives of their students.”

He stated that he has been involved with Indo-American Center for past several years and he strongly believes in the work they do to strengthen the community.

“In this spirit, Indo-American Center has embarked upon a space expansion project, to better serve their clients as well as allow them to expand their existing programs and develop new programming to benefit clients and increase their caseloads to meet the growing demand for services”, he added.

Mr. Jay Luthra, Executive Director of IAC provided a brief description of the center’s 8 core programs which are run by 26 dedicated staff members. They consist of Senior Milan program, Youth Program (After -School Program, Summer Camp, Teen Cricket League), Adult Literacy Program, Computer Education Program, Civics Education and American History Classes, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Public Benefits Assistance and Legal Clinic. He pointed out in FY2008, 23,000 clients received their services and that number rose to 42,000 in FY2011, showing a greater need for space and increase in services. The capital campaign aims to raise funds to build a new center. A live testimonial in support of the services received was presented by 3 clients served by IAC programs who shared their personal stories and their successful outcomes.

Opening remarks made by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn alluded to the diversity of Illinois’s population and the contributions made by the Indo-American Community. He said that the South Asian community had a strong commitment to education, family values, work ethics, job creation, and maintaining peace and unity which forms the basic fabric of the American society. At a large gathering of Indo-American elite, the Governor applauded the outstanding achievements of Indo-American Center (IAC), thanked President Prem Balani for his leadership, and recognized the Board of IAC for their dedicated service to the citizens of Illinois.

Ravi Baichwal, the eloquent and charming anchor of ABC7 News in his keynote speech highlighted the history, achievements, and services of the Indo-American Center. In addition, he used the occasion to announce the launch of IAC’s CAPITAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE for the acquisition of their new, larger building. He described the valuable services provided by IAC to new immigrants, who face a great deal of challenges, as they set out to establish themselves in the new country. He also stressed the vital importance of IAC’s programs which paves the way for the ultimate “American Dream” of every client.

Amina Imran (Youth program), Habeeb Sultan (Civics program), and Razia Sultana (Literacy program) were given a platform to bring to life the ‘portrait of the community’ by sharing with the attendees success stories that depict IAC’s purpose: helping its clients. A live and silent auction was conducted by Mr. Kamal Hans to raise money for the new building.

The 2011 Event Sponsors were President’s Circle: National Republic Bank of Chicago; Platinum: American Airlines; Gold: Drs. Vijayalakshmi and Bapu Arekapudi, Mr. and Mrs. Ram and Uma Kelkar, and TEKchand; Sliver: Kathi Rose and Ashref Hashim; Bronze: BMO Harris Bank. The IAC would also like to recognize individual donors whose generous contributions were integral to the funds raised for the new building: Hiren Patel, Chairman of National Republic Bank (on behalf of the Bank), Sunil Sanghvi, and Rattan Khosa. National Republic Bank’s large contribution was presented by Dinesh Gandhi.

About The Indo-American Center
The Indo-American Center is a not-for-profit community service organization serving the South Asian immigrant population.. The mission of the Indo-American Center is to promote the well being of South Asian immigrants through services that facilitate their adjustment, integration and friendship with the wider society, nurture their sense of community, and foster appreciation for their heritage and culture Indo-American center – 6328 N. California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60659 773-973-4444 /

Special thanks to Dr. Bapu Arekapudi, Page # 1 to 23 All photographs are from Dr. Bapu Arekapudi

Photographs and Press release by: Asian Media USA

Suresh Bodiwala
Asian Media USA
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