MILPITAS, Calif. – Hundreds of guests gathered at the India Community Center Sept. 8 here for the center’s 15th annual banquet for an evening of celebration, entertainment and presentation of its Inspire Awards for social entrepreneurship.

The banquet was attended by more than 400 community members and officials, including a plethora of Indian American entrepreneurs like Kumar Malavalli, B.V. Jagadeesh, Naren Bakshi, Talat and Kamil Hasan, as well as local dignitaries such as Milpitas Mayor Richard Tran, Vice Mayor Marsha Grilli, Councilmember Bob Nunez, Cupertino Councilmember Savita Vaidhyanathan and Saratoga Councilmember Rishi Kumar.

ICC chief executive officer Raj Desai kicked off the ceremony with his opening remarks, in which he enumerated the center’s sojourn over the past 15 years.

Desai touched on the myriad social, health, sports, educational and entertainment initiatives being run by the center for people of all ages and inclinations.

Some of the center’s most popular programs include the internationally renowned table tennis program that has sent its participants to international tournaments, as well as the annual Sevathon event attended by 3,500 attendees where over $250,000 was raised this year for the various participating non-profits, and a newly launched health initiative.

“We have a 29-member board whose guidance is critical for us to grow and continue to be relevant to the community that we serve,” said Desai.

The ICC head also highlighted the center’s table tennis program and, as a part of its future plans, mentioned the expansion of the program with ambitions of representations at the 2020 Olympics under the stewardship of Rajul Sheth, the table tennis center director.

Desai spoke about the afterschool program, the summer camps and youth programs that have become very popular amongst the Indian American community.

“The new health and wellness conference attracted people in big numbers and we will continue with the programs to promote the need for heathy life choices amongst members of our community and beyond. In hand with the health program is also the personalized training and fitness that we will enhance,” said Desai.

He also referenced the seniors program attended by over 700 seniors in the various centers in Milpitas and Cupertino.

“We have $4.2 million in gross revenue. We have come a long way in self-sustaining our programs and overall we are in good shape and should become fully self-sustaining soon,” the CEO said.

He thanked the donors for their support and various people who have made the myriad programs in ICC a success.

Kamil Hasan, a founding ICC board member, spoke on the future aspirations of the center and its plans to expand beyond its Milpitas roots.

“We plan to expand to other parts of the Bay Area and hopefully to other states in the U.S. in the future,” Hasan told India-West. “In the next year, as part of our next phase, we plan to open a center on the other side of the Bay,” Hasan, who recently took over as president of ICC, added.

“One of the biggest learnings of the last 15 years is that building a community center is much more complex than other endeavors. It’s a big challenge but it’s been very enjoyable to be able to serve the community. Now we know the formula of success that took us some time to learn, but it will be easier to repeat,” added Hasan.

Anil Godhwani, a founding member of ICC, meanwhile, in his address to the event goers, stressed the need for the community to live healthier and how the ICC will help play a part in that.

“The Indian American community has made a lot of wealth in this area but it has lost its health in the process. A lot of people in our community suffer from lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart ailments, etc.,” Godhwani said. “Most of these are completely reversible but only two percent can do it. Looking at the future, our goal is to play a key role in helping our community get its health back.”

Additionally at the event, ICC doled out its Inspire Awards for social entrepreneurship.

The 2018 awards were given to Mohammed Choudhury of the Silicon Valley Educational Foundation; Maitri, a nonprofit for helping survivors of domestic violence; Premal Shah of KIVA; and Salman Khan of the Khan Academy.

Each of the awardees (Salman Khan was not present, but spoke via video) spoke passionately about the causes that they are involved in and encouraged the attendees to help and donate.

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