Vietnam Center passes the torch
ST. PAUL (Jan. 31, 2010) – The Vietnam Center held a lunch banquet last month to mark a historical transition of several board members that were instrumental in acquiring their building a decade ago – passing the torch to the younger generation of individuals dedicated to preserving their culture in America.
The event, held at Hoa Bien Restaurant, just a few doors down from the Vietnam Center at 1159 University Avenue, drew a few hundred guests who enjoyed entertainment and a discussion of the accomplishments and challenges that the organization has endured and will face in the future.
Mr. Pham Van Vy; Mr. Nguyen Van Am; Mr. Tran The Huy, and Mr. Ha Van Tien are four outgoing board members. Some are retiring, some are in poor health and some are moving out of the area, according to Johnathan Nguyn, incoming board treasurer and vice president of external affairs.
The board members, together with fellow board members, Josee Cung, Hien Nguyen, Yen Pham, Bich Chu, Thiet Nguyen, Khoi Nguyen and Vann Phan, raised $115,000 from the community and put up their own homes and savings as assets as down payment on a $300,000 loan signed on December 31, 1999.
The St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development provided another $200,000 loan
Retiring Boar Chair Pham Van Vy was present with founding Executive Director Chi Lu to witness the transition.
The new board members include: Johnathan Nguyen, Jordan Nguyen, Alyssa Nguyen, Esq., Van Ang Hoang, Branden Bui, Tri D. Nguyen and Truong Nguyen. The new members have been active with the organization and its programs for many years.
Johnathan Nguyen is the new treasurer of the Vietnam Center. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, along with a Master’s of Business in Administration, and is a graduate of the Realtor Institute as a Residential and Investment Specialist.
He replaces outgoing treasurer Am Nguyen, who was responsible for all Vietnam Center finance matters including receiving, accounting for, reconciling, and disbursing all funds and expenses, preparing financial reports for Board of Directors, IRS and other government entities and other duties.
“With his talent and knowledge about finance, Mr. Am has made Vietnam Center from the empty garage to become a nice building,” said Nguyen. “We currently have many programs to serve our community.”
Community discussion following the ceremony prompted concerns from some that a priority during difficult times should be with paying off the remainder of the building loan.
John Nguyen said the Vietnam Center finances are strong and that about three-quarters of the loan for the building has been paid off. He added that the goals for the Vietnam Center for the next five years are to pay off the mortgage and to increase the reserve funds to support our programs.
Nguyen credits Vietnamese Social Services, Hong Lan Service, Thuong Art & Frame Services, Prestige Chiropractice and other businesses past and present for helping to pay down the loan through their leases.
Also present were Tony Hoang, Huy Ngo, Calyne Quynh and Dai Anh Vu, who make up the programs committees that are currently organizing a Vietnamese history class to being this spring, along with the Saturday Vietnamese language classes, the annual Vietnamese Arts and Culture event, and the research library development.
The new president is Branden Bui, who was unable to attend the event. It was a decade ago, when then president Danh Pham said that a cohesive Vietnamese community made it all possible to purchase the building, prompting Western Bank officials to describe the personal stake of board members as nothing short of extraordinary.
The Vietnam Center opened later that spring with phased development that eventually produced a research library focusing on literature produced during the time of the Republic of Vietnam; classes to teach English and Vietnamese and space for community celebrations.
The building became the home of Vietnamese Social Services of Minnesota, and over the course of the next decade, the Vietnam Center underwent phased renovations, to include kitchen and meeting space and a library that can transition to auditorium style seating for special events.