Friends, Angels … and a Little Bear, Bring Charity Home


The IACF 2016 Board at the Gala held on Friday, September 30 at the Stafford Civic Centre
Photos: Roy Photography

By Jawahar Malhotra

STAFFORD: All Nik Nikam had with him (apart from the mic that he loves so well!) as he strode on to the catwalk was a fluffy white teddy bear. And a penchant for adlibbing witticisms, which he has captured in a couple of books. “Our biggest addiction is texting while driving at 80 miles per hour of the freeway,” he rolled off. “So who’s going to bid $10,000 (no takers) …. okay $5,000 …. for this fluffy little teddy bear? And also get a copy of my brain ‘Comedy Clips of Nik Nikam’?” (as he held out a thin paperback).


Brian Dean, Sr. VP and CEO of Memorial-Hermann-TMC Campus, which was the lead sponsor, with his wife.

Sure enough, Dr. Bharat Pothuri, dashing in his red bow tie and deep blue suit made a bid for $5,000, walked onstage to get the bear and book and got the ball moving. Many more made bids for the lovable bear, though none matched the first bid, and by the end of the night, after adding in for two items auctioned off by the auctioneer for the night, the versatile Subodh Buchchar (who had just flown in from Chicago); brought in about $26,000 pledged for the Indo American Charity Foundation’s annual fund drive. This added to the silent auction that netted near $10,000 and the money raised beforehand to bring in a little over $200,000 for the Houston-based charity that prides itself for its moniker “we live here, we give here”.


IACF President Nanda Vura made some brief opening remarks.

The IACF held its 29the Annual Gala tagged “After the Monsoons – Charity Blossoms” at the Stafford Civic Centre on Cash Road this past Friday, September 30 with a sold-out event for 500 people.  The chief sponsor this year was Memorial-Hermann-TMC which contributed $25,000 to the charity. “”We are in the midst of the most charitable, benevolent people,” said IACF President Nanda Vura as he opened up the evening, emphasizing the key elements of his year in office: expanding the volunteer base, energizing organization and empowering the brand. He segued into a brief video that showed testimonials from other community leaders who have worked with, and benefitted from, IACF.


Nik Nikam ran the pledge drive for teddy bears and Dr. Bharat Pothuri was the first one to bid with $5,000.

The unusual tactic of using bears added to the subtle change in the way the IACF has raised its profile, beginning with last year when it gave out its first Friends of Charity awards to local newsmakers, an idea first conceived by this reporter while a Director of the organization. This year’s gala featured 14 more Friends who came forward to accept the distinction and went one step further to herald the Angels of Charity, 10 couples in their finest apparel to the sound of music who walked down the catwalk.


Students of the Anjali Center for Performing arts did three dances at the gala.

The rest of the entertainment came from students of the Anjali Center for Performing Arts, under the tutelage of Rathna Kumar, who is also a Director of the IACF. They performed three dances celebrating the monsoons, in keeping with the gala’s tagline. The emcee for the evening was the tall Robin Beltran, who sported a huge Afro and is an entrepreneur and frequent television commentator and volunteered her time as a way to give back to the community. The Gala Chairs were Girija and Anant Patel of Karat 22 Jewelers. Food for the gala was catered by Dawat Catering whose co-owner Mahesh Shah was on hand, as he is at many other galas during this busy charity season.

Towards the end of the program, the IACF President-elect for next year Dr. Vanitha Pothuri, who has been on the Board for 5 years, was introduced. She spoke about the culture of giving in her family that has inculcated in her the same sentiments of helping family, neighbors and community which are central tenets to the IACF mission. She said she hoped to start an “I Am Charities Friend” program to work with a new local charity each year.