The Unique Charm of Awards Brings Friends and Support to IACF’s Gala

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Photos: Murali Santhana


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By Jawahar Malhotra

SUGAR LAND:  A change in venue to the heartland of Asians in this Metroplex and a focus on those who are paving a path for future generations – Gen-Next as the promotional materials called them – helped the Indo American Charity Foundation to raise its profile this past weekend when it held its annual Gala at the Sugar Land Marriott in Town Square on Saturday, September 12.

Over the past decade, the 28-year-old charity has tried many venues for its annual gala, from the Hilton Americas (site of last year’s event) to the Safari Texas Ranch (where the 2012 gala was held) but this year’s venue may have been the best choice for its annual fundraiser. The convenience of the location for many of its supporters who live in the area brought in a good-sized crowd of 350, according to organizers.

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The thrust of the Gala was to recognize and reward the eighteen people, both young and old, who have made an impact on the lives of future generations of Indo Americans. Billed as the “Gen-Next Influential Friends of Charity Awards”, the Board of Directors of the IACF had sought out nominations from across the community, according to Dr. Kamala Raghavan, the current IACF President, and then narrowed down the field. “Each of these honorees is an inspiration to the next generation to follow in providing help to the needy among us,” said Raghavan from the podium. “We salute their accomplishments, applaud their efforts and humbly support their charity work,” she added.

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After a cocktail hour in the lobby for most, and a private reception for the honorees, the guests ushered into the main ballroom and the two long tables and aisles of silent auction items were also brought in, set along the back wall, where they continued to do a brisk trade. All eyes in the packed hall were on the stage where Srisanvitha Sridhar, the 2013 IACF Music Idol Winner sang a melodious invocation.  Raghavan made her welcome speech and then asked Isha Salas Deselle, the Founder and Executive Director of Turning Point, a local homeless shelter for the elderly in Spring Branch, to speak from her experiences. IACF has provided free flu vaccinations and financial support for Turning Point, a charity it supports.

Other charities supported by the IACF were also on hand to talk about the work they do for the community, like Jaishri Kothandaraman and Venkat Dikonda of PEACE which supports education programs and those to which grants were handed out onstage, like Indian Doctors Charity Clinic; Literacy Advance; Friends Helping Friends and Casa de Esperanza.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the awards – a beautifully framed picture and short bio of the recipients – to each of the 18 people (see list in box) who had come to the gala, many with their friends and family, as the emcee for the evening, the radiant Nina Desai (last year’s Mrs. Bollywood) read out short excerpts from their resume. The honorees were also appreciated in the gala souvenir which had full page pictures and biographies on each of them.

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Entertainment for the evening featured a fashion show and Bollywood dance by Jaz Creations whose founder and Executive Director Jasmeeta Singh performed along with several other young women onstage. A live auction was held for eight antique art pieces (from Zarposh India) and diamond jewelry (from Select Jewelers) items, pushed along by Dr. Nik Nikam (one of the honorees) who had conducted last year’s auction too; but it failed to get the crowd’s enthusiasm. Alpa Shah (an IACF Director) captivated the audience with a heartfelt movie song from yesteryear, and then relinquished the mic to Anand Chauhan (another IACF Director) who played along on his guitar as his lead singer Malika Ghei pumped it up with more contemporary pop Hindi songs.

As catered dinner (from Dawat Catering, who also provided the abundant appetizers) was served at the tables, Nanda Vura, the incoming IACF President thanked many of the individuals who had made the Gala a reality. DJ Zee played out some fast remixes and Bollywood hits as many guests showed off their moves on the dance floor.

IACF 2015 Friends of Charity Award Recipients

Abhijit Gadgil
Asif Dakri
Atul Kothari
Chandrakantha & David Courtney
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Dr. S.G. Appan
Juuhi Ahuja
Dr. Kamlesh Lulla
Dr. Karun Sreerama
Koshy Thomas
Dr. Nat Bala
George R. Willy
Dr. Nik Nikam
Dr. Padmini R. Nathan
Ravi K. Sandill
Sockalingam “Sam” Kannappan
Stuti Trehan Patel
Dr. Randy Briones