United Way integral to Asian assistance agency

9/15/2012

Editor's note:This is the fourth in a series of stories featuring the 21 agencies that will receive funding from the Finney County United Way in 2013.

Editor's note:This is the fourth in a series of stories featuring the 21 agencies that will receive funding from the Finney County United Way in 2013.

By SHAJIA AHMAD

sahmad@gctelegram.com

Without the assistance of the Finney County United Way, one local agency would not be able to open its doors.

"Anybody who helps the United Way helps us," said Shelly Dinh, director of the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association. "Without the United Way, we couldn't even open our office to help our Asian people."

The agency that has been serving Garden City's southeast Asian community since at least 1989 — and today serves anyone who walks into their offices needing advice or assistance — is relying on $22,250 from the United Way's 2013 annual fundraising campaign.

The fiscal support from the United Way comprises most of the group's annual budget of about $25,000, according to Dinh, who has been directing the organization since 2001. Other funds come from grants, donations or fundraising ventures.

Dinh, who speaks both Vietnamese and English, said the clients who seek help from the association do not always hail from her homeland.

There are hundreds of Laotians, Cambodians and residents of Thai and Burmese descent who rely on her, a part-time worker with the agency and volunteers for help on filling out job applications, findings homes or apartments to rent, helping disabled or elderly individuals who need transportation assistance, and more.

The agency's office is located at the community building at East Garden Village, 4101 E. U.S. Highway 50, Suite A.

"I have everybody coming in," Dinh said, adding that in recent years, she has reached out to many new residents who are Burmese refugees and helped teach them how to use appliances, such as washing machines or stoves, that they've never used before, or helped them find apartments or homes to live in.

Dinh said when she works with residents who are Lao or Burmese and only speak their mother tongue, she often pulls help from friends of hers who also speak those languages.

"Many people, when I help them find an apartment, their kids speak English, and they help me out, too," the director said.

Mitch Young, a complex human resources manager at Tyson Fresh Meats, sits on the association's board of directors and has been involved with the group on and off for the past two decades.

Young said the agency has been integral in building communication lines between individuals in Garden City's Asian communities and the community at large.

"The agency has done a very good job as far as working with law enforcement, the school district, the hospital, in helping the southeast Asian people to communicate (with them)," Young said. "(It) has helped them understand and obey the laws and helped them to be productive citizens within the community."

The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $550,000 for 2013, the same as it has been for the last few years.

Additionally, the 21 partner agencies for the 2013 campaign are also the same as this year.

They include: Miles of Smiles; Russell Child Development Center; Finney County RSVP; Kansas Children's Service League; Catholic Social Service; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Program; Smart Start; Playground Program; Family Crisis Services; Spirit of the Plains, CASA; The Salvation Army; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; Garden City Family YMCA; Garden City Chapter of the Red Cross; Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Community Day Care Center; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties; and Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.

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