The South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS) on Nov. 2 hosted its first in-person gala since the COVID-19 pandemic at the Prince George Ballroom in Manhattan to celebrate its 22 years of service to the Flushing community.
The event, “Celebrating Together, Striving Forward,” included South Asian cultural icon Madhur Jaffrey as the guest of honor, and over 240 distinguished guests from diverse communities, including immigrants from several countries.
South Asian digital media stars Hena Doba and Sree Sreenivasan co-emceed the gala, which was attended by elected officials including Council members Sandra Ung and Linda Lee, as well as diplomats including Acting Consul General of Nepal Bishnu Prasad Gautam and Consul General of Bangladesh Mohammad Monirul Islam.
Other special guests included stage and TV/film actor, producer and director Faran Tahir and Grammy-winning singer Falu. The New York Kathak Dance Company performed at the gala and DJ Rekha hosted the dance party.
At the event, SACSS honored Congresswoman Grace Meng with its 2022 Community Trailblazer Award for her leadership and service. In her speech, Meng noted how SACSS has the distinction of not only serving thousands of people with compassion, but also providing a comforting space through its permanent community center which opened last year.
Other honorees included entrepreneur Adnan Durrani, who received the 2022 Pioneer in #FoodYouWant Award for his efforts to bring halal and ethically sourced global food via his company, Saffron Road.
Durrani described his own experiences as an immigrant, and encouraged people to support SACSS because of the need, noting that “SACSS has increased its services by 600% from the pre-pandemic era.”
Internationally renowned culinary duo Restaurateur Roni Mazumdar and Chef Chintan Pandya received SACSS’ 2022 Innovator in #FoodYouWant awards for their dedication to showcasing food that presents “a real voice for Indian cuisine, a voice that is authentic and represents the culture.”
The culinary duo of Unapologetic Foods offered an extraordinary eleventh-hour auction item — dinner prepared by Pandya and Chef Vijay Kumar for a party of 10 at the home of the highest bidder.
According to SACSS executive director Sudha Acharya, the gala was a fundraiser to help the organization continue its work to serve underserved immigrants, especially since “the last three years have been horrific for them and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for them.”
“They need assistance from community based organizations more than ever,” said Acharya, who vowed that SACSS would continue to serve its clients according to their needs.
For 22 years, SACSS has become a trusted, stalwart source for the multilingual, multicultural community it serves, including more than 150,000 people a year striving to feed their families, pay their bills, stay healthy and prosper through a global pandemic and its ramifications. SACSS also helps individuals and families know their rights and works to empower their voice across a wide range of civic issues and more.
Many of the government assistance such as ERAP (emergency rental assistance program) P-FRED (Pandemic Food Reserve Emergency Distribution Program) and the Excluded Workers Fund have come to an end. The prices for the staples that they need have become twice, sometimes three times more.
SACSS empowers and integrates underserved South Asians and all immigrants into the economic and civic life of New York through the fundamentals of food security, healthcare access, job preparedness, senior services including counseling, and much more.
All SACSS’s programs are free and available in 19 languages including Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam, Nepali, Tamil, Telugu, Tibetan, Spanish, Creole, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka and Malay.