New York Senator announces funding for Indian-American organization

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New York State Senator James Skoufis, D-Hudson Valley, praised an Indian-American non-profit organization for its work in the community and announced he had secured program funding because of its accomplishments.

New York State Senator James Skoufis speaking on the floor of the Senate. (Photo: nysenate.gov)

Sen. Skoufis secured $10,000 for the India Association of Catskills Region (IACR), according to a July 2 press release from his office.

The IACR, which is an educational, social, and cultural group that provides a platform for individuals of Indian origin to come together and celebrate their cultural heritage, also holds events for the general public including soup kitchens and food banks, Neena Raizada, president of the organization, told Desi Talk in New York.

“It cannot be understated how important and valued Indian-American contributions are to our community,” Skoufis is quoted saying while announcing the funding.

“Not only is this group necessary for Indian-Americans in the region to be able to connect with their ethnic identities, but IACR also partners with local communities to coordinate food banks, soup kitchens, and donations,” Skoufis said, adding, “I’m thankful for their work in the Hudson Valley and am confident this funding will empower them to continue to grow and accomplish the great work they do.”

Neena Raizada, president of the India Association of Catskills Region. (Photo courtesy Neena Raizada)

The IACR, which is among the oldest Indian-American organization, founded in 1974, has grown over the years even though the population of people of Indian origin in the Catskills is not very large.

Today, around 250 people attend events like garba or Diwali when the IARC organizes them. Raizada joined IACR to initially teach Bollywood dancing to children, and that grew into more dance forms being taught to children and adults, plus numerous other activities.

“Senator Skoufis is very helpful. He has been attending our events for many years,” said Raizada, who has a Ph.D. in environmental biotechnology from Technical University of Munich, Germany, and currently works at a health services company on Medicaid and Medicare billing.

She said the funds secured by Sen. Skoufis, were “generous” and would allow the IARC to charge a nominal amount for various events and to hold more soup kitchens and related events for the region as a whole.

Raizada, who moved to The Catskills 9 years ago, is married to Vikas Sonakya, an IT expert, who doubles at IACR’s photographer, she said laughing.

Their son, Rohan, has attended events since he was 5 and the family moved to the area. He is part of the Youth Board started by IACR, whose members help as volunteers for various events from Diwali to soup kitchens.

Raizada said she looked forward to continuing work with the Senator’s office. Skoufis has successfully continued to secure funding for “indispensable organizations” from across the region and plans to announce more funding in the weeks to come, his office said in a press release.

Meanwhile, the IACR is busy planning a possible trip for seniors; garba in October, Diwali in November, and possibly Thanksgiving, or Christmas. Next month, at a planned event, NY Sen. Skoufis will present the New York State Resolution on August 2019 as Indian-American Heritage Month, to the IACR.

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