IAPAC & SIMA Honor Mayor Sylvester Turner at a Luncheon

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Mayor Sylvester Turner with IAPAC & SIMA Board members. Photos: Bijay Dixit

Mayor Sylvester Turner with IAPAC & SIMA Board members. Photos: Bijay Dixit

By Vanshika Vipin Varma

HOUSTON: Small Independent Motel Owners Association (SIMA) and the dynamic Indo-American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) organized a luncheon on Monday, March 19, to Honor Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner. Held at the India House, the event embraced collaborated efforts between SIMA and IAPAC. Their synergies manifested the previous success stories of events done in partnership. Some of their innumerable philanthropy acts include the efforts taken to reinforce Houston and neighboring areas post the devastating Hurricane Harvey.

While IAPAC had coordinated relief efforts for the Harvey victims through Sewa International, SIMA had donated to Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, and welcomed the displaced victims into their lodging facilities, providing them with free guest rooms and meals. And all these humanitarian acts were carried out while dealing with the damages themselves.  

The event guests included Deputy Indian Consul General Surendra Adhana, City Council Member At large Position 1 Himesh Gandhi, and candidates running for political offices like Sri Kulkarni, Meghan Scoggins, and Juli Mathew. The emcee for the event, Sanjay Ramabhadran opened the event and welcomed these guests. Referring to the strong Indo-American population of about 180,000 in the greater Houston area, he aptly labeled four organizations as the four pillars of the Indian community in Houston.

Hasu Patel

Hasu Patel

These appreciable organizations were categorized under Business, Culture, Charity and Politically Engaged and the organizations that were recognized under these genres were Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston, India Culture Center, Indo American Charity Foundation and IAPAC respectively. Sanjay mentioned that these four pillars have a common home, which is India House. He also recognized various other leaders present at the event, such as the Presidents and Board members from various Indo American Organizations.

Gitesh Desai, President of Sewa International and the former president of IAPAC, followed as the next speaker. He passionately shared his views about IAPAC and stated that ever since its inception in 1995, IAPAC has been the political voice of the Indo American community in the greater Houston area. He acknowledged Jagat Kamdar, one of the founders of IAPAC who was present at the event. Gitesh’s enthusiasm was evident when he mentioned that IAPAC promotes and increases political awareness in our community and encourages Indo-Americans to become citizens and vote.

He also stated that IAPAC encourages and facilitates public forum debates with political candidates so that the Indo-American community’s concerns can be heard, and the updates of legislative changes are updated to the community by the IAPAC, which in turn facilitates a better understanding between USA and India as local members of the House of Representatives and Senate visit India.

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The next speaker on stage was Hasu Patel, President of IAPAC & SIMA. He recognized and thanked the sponsors- Curve Hospitality, Builder’s Direct Depot, Tara Energy, Murray Insurance & Financial, Amin Realty INC and Southwestern National Bank. He also recognized the SIMA board members and shared some insights about SIMA. Expressing his views he mentioned that SIMA was formed in 1992 by a small group of hoteliers form Gujarat, India, and as on date the organization represents more than 200 properties. He shared that SIMA provides its members with adequate resources, education, and training on the best practices for operating their businesses.

Their aim is to impart education by hosting educational seminars within the city of Houston, between Houston Police department and local management district, acting as a liaison between the hotel and motel owner, informing members about the policy changes that effect the hospitality industry, encouraging members to get involved in the political process at the city, county and state level, to coordinate efforts by SIMA members for providing a disaster relief support. He also shared some remarkable insights on the way SIMA participated and contributed to the relief efforts of Hurricane Katrina, IKE and Harvey, the motel fire on Southwest freeway, memorial flood, tax day flood and many others, by providing free lodging and donating $151,000 to the Mayor’s Hurricane Harvey relief fund.

Mayor Sylvester Turner, the keynote speaker, thanked the entire community for being a big support. He stated, “I look up to the Indo-American Community for the tremendous support they have manifested. I thank SIMA for providing all the help they could during hurricane Harvey, and to the entire Indo American community for donating hundreds of thousands of dollars”. Referring to Indo-American as the most diverse community, he expressed that it is important to have an inclusive approach where people from diverse backgrounds should be on the boards and committees.

He exclaimed that he would like more people to come forward and be a part of the phenomenal and exceptional community. Applauding the work of IAPAC he asserted that they have made it to being a part of the political discussion. To reaffirm this he shared that he is scheduled to go to India in October-November with a delegation. He also spoke about the Metro and the Airport expansion plans. In his closing remarks he mentioned that a lot of exciting things were lined up in our city and that he is excited to work with the Indo-American community.

The enthusiastic crowd gave him a thundering ovation. His wonderful remarks were followed by quick Q&A session, where some of the community issues were raised and heard and the Mayor answered them all with a smile on his face. The afternoon came to a delightful end with the Mayor being presented with a recognition plaque by the IAPAC & SIMA Board Members. Scrumptious cuisine awaited the guests and they enjoyed a hearty lunch catered by Bombay Brasserie, and Darshak Thacker of Krishna Sounds arranged the sound for the event.

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