Queens lawmakers joined the South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS) — a 20-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering underserved South Asians and other immigrants in the borough — to celebrate the opening of its new community center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 12.
SACSS, located at 143-02 45th Ave., is a two-story building with a finished basement housing an expanded food pantry; more space for senior immigrants to gather; increased healthcare access; youth leadership; ESOL and computer classes; and civic engagement and education — all of which serve as a one-stop gateway for holistic social services.
SACSS embarked on a capital campaign to establish a new, larger permanent community center where they can expand their services for immigrants from Flushing and all across New York City. The new center will open to the public in the fall.
Sudha Acharya, executive director and founder of SACSS, said from the very beginning, SACSS has strived to respond to its community’s needs, such as offering counseling post-9/11 when they had only been open for a year.
“Twenty years in, as we served more than 30,000 people per year, it was vital to have a welcoming, warm space for community members,” Acharya said.
Acharya thanked local elected officials, donors and many others for their efforts and generosity.
“It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. We now know that it takes a city to raise a community center — city with a small c, and the one with the big C,” said Archarya. She added that it was a dream come true, especially in light of the continued need for services such as the food pantry as a result of the pandemic and its devastating impact on immigrant communities.
As part of the effort to raise awareness for the expanded food pantry, which is the only one in the city to offer culturally palatable groceries, Chef Surbhi Sahni of Tagmo Treats prepared a take-away box of healthy South Asian foods, including a chick pea salad made out of ingredients from SACSS’ grocery bag.
In 2020, SACSS served more than 30,000 people struggling to feed their families, pay their bills, stay healthy and survive.
The pantry serves healthy vegetarian meals which suits the palate, as well as religious beliefs of its clients — particularly Hindus, Jains and Muslims.
The pantry provides nutritious food items that are basic to the South Asian diet such as rice, dal (lentils), atta (whole wheat flour) and spices (chili powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander powder and mustard seeds), as well as fresh seasonal produce such as vegetables and fruit, milk, cereal, oatmeal, pasta and bread.
Local elected officials such as Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and John Liu, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Deputy Queens Borough President Rhonda Binda, and New York City Council members Peter Koo, Daniel Dromm and Barry Grodenchik were gathered at the site to inaugurate SACSS’ new community center.
Meng commended SACSS’s exceptional work in responding to the needs of the community.
“The center is for the community, which is not limited to South Asians; SACSS works for all immigrants who need them,” Meng said.
Stavisky echoed Meng’s sentiments and Liu spoke to SACSS’ humble beginnings and the growth of the organization’s work and impact over the last 20 years.
Koo, who represents Flushing and contributed discretionary funding for the building, said the organization has always been there for the people in the community.
“During the last year and a half, they have gone above and beyond, they have literally been saving people’s lives,” Koo said.
Richards said they look forward to many more decades of service based in the group’s new community center.
All SACSS’s programs are free and available in 18 languages including Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam, Nepali, Tamil, Telugu, Tibetan, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, French and Haitian Creole.
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