Discover why this center, initiated to provide ‘culturally specific services’, now serves everyone in need …
Chisa Nguyen, academic advisor from Upward Bound, greets folks – along with Katie Bergmans, project director with Upward Bound, and the Asian Family Center’s Community Health official, Hongsa Chanthavong.
Photos and story by David F. Ashton
There was no more festive an occasion on May 11 in outer East Portland than the “official” opening of the Asian Family Center (AFC) on NE Sandy Boulevard.
AFC Board Chair Nga-my Vuong, who works with the nonprofit’s Community Health department, told East Portland News, “About 18 years, ago, we found we needed a place where people, who have need of special services, could find them – delivered in a culturally-appropriate setting.”
Nga-my Vuong, Board Chair of Asian Family Center, welcomes all to the dedication celebration of their new facility.
They started with services to immigrants and refugees who came from Asian and Pacific Islander communities, Vuong continued, “But now, we serve all immigrants, all refugees, and even mainstream folks. We’re not limited to any particular culture. Our mission has expanded to include all people.”
During the formal ceremonies, Vuong, who also served as mistress of ceremonies, reminded all who packed their meeting room, “This day has been 18 years in the making. As some of you will remember, we started out in a building that was once a [funeral home] with a morgue. You know how well that went over with Asian people!” she grinned.
Over the years, AFC has served thousands of immigrants and refugees from all over the world, Vuong said. “Each of you sitting here should be so proud of the contribution you’ve made in helping so many lives.”
At the dedication gala, Asian Family Center Chair Chanpone Sinlapasa welcomed Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
Vuong continued, “I, myself, was a refugee – not unlike many of you sitting here, from many places all over the world. We were displaced, we had no home, and we came to this country to search for something to look forward to. We were moving away from something so terrible and traumatic.
“But, organizations like Catholic Charities, IRCO and the Asian Family Center – these are agencies that have made a real difference.”
From Foundation for Sacred Buddhist Arts of Nepal, Selina Shakya of Dance Mandal performs “White Tara”, a cultural dance to bless the Asian Family Center.
Wrapping up her remarks, Vuong said, “I thank the aunties and uncles and everyone who worked from early in the morning until late at night cleaning up after the children – these folks, the staff here, work so much from their hearts, and from their compassion for giving back to the community and making a difference. I believe in all of you. I am so thankful for all of you.”
Asian Family Center Director Lee Po Cha thanks, by name, the persons and agencies who have supported the organization over the years.
“First, I thank the dedication and work of those on our advisory board,” said the center’s director, Lee Po Cha.
“We thank Multnomah County Chair Beverly Stein, who in the 1980s ,took our vision and help to make it a reality, funding the Asian Family Center, and making it the first culturally-specific -ervices model in the county.”
Cha also recognized now Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, present at the event, for his work as a County Commissioner. “At that time, County Commissioner Saltzman was the swing vote that made the center a reality.”
18 years after that, Cha added, “We can actually say we have now found a permanent home for the Asian Family Center.”
He went on to thank organizations including the City of Portland, the United Way, the State of Oregon, and federal government – and especially the Meyer Memorial Trust. “It’s because of your passion for wanting to make a real difference.”
After testimonials from two clients came the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Ronault L.S. “Polo” Catalani, Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Director, City of Portland Office of Human Relations, calls dignitaries up to the front for the ribbon- cutting dedication.
After greeting the standing-room-only crowd in numerous languages, Ronault “Polo” Catalani, from the City of Portland, joked, “When you’re bringing up the scissors, be careful! Don’t run with them!”
Catalani deftly called up officials and dignities one by one, until the front of the room was crowded with smiling faces. “Really this home belongs to – and this cannot be said enough – to the ‘Asian family sisters’, who have taken care of us all day long.”
With Doug Stamm, CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust, and Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz holding the giant shears, the ribbon is cut, marking the dedication of the Asian Family Center in mid-County.
The remainder of the ceremony was filled with conversation, more cultural entertainment – and of course, lots of food provided by these ladies – just a few of the “Asian family sisters”.
Asian Family Center
8040 Northeast Sandy Boulevard
Portland, OR 97213
See their webpage: CLICK HERE.
© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News