Saigon Plaza celebrates grand opening

(Plain Press, December 2005) On Friday Nobember 4th, over 500 people participated in the grand opening celebration of the Friendship Foundation of American-Vietnamese’s new headquarters at Saigon Plaza, 5400 Detroit Avenue.

Friendship Foundation President Dr. George McCarthy welcomed guests to the grand opening ceremony. The foundation’s treasurer, Vietnam veteran and Legal Aid attorney Joseph Meissner shared some of the history of the foundation. Gia Hoa Ryan, founder and Executive Director of the Friendship Foundation, greeted guests and thanked them for their attendance.

The celebration featured a buffet of Vietnamese food, music, dancing, speeches by politicians, a ceremony inducting the first members of the Ohio Asian Hall of Fame, and religious dedication and prayer by Fr. Augustine Phan Van Lan of St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church and a Buddhist prayer and dedication. Children attending the event were invited to cut the ribbon for the exhibition center and museum.

The Friendship Foundation of American-Vietnamese was founded in 1993. Foundation Director Gia Hoa Ryan says, “We are dedicated to building bridges of friendship between the peoples of Vietnam and other Asian countries, on the one hand, and the people of America and other countries.”

Since its beginnings, the foundation has sponsored many social service and humanitarian activities both in Cleveland and in Indochina. These activities include over 20 missions to Vietnam where volunteers have provided medical, legal, educational and charitable services. The foundation has over 600 volunteers, including teachers, Vietnam veterans, doctors and lawyers. The foundation estimates that it has provided over $8 million  to the poor in Vietnam in student scholarships, educational books and supplies, medical supplies and services, legal help, food, clothing and other goods and services.

In Cleveland, the foundation’s social services include income tax assistance, English as a Second Language classes, information and assistance obtaining citizenship, telephone and other utility services, financial counseling and other consumer assistance.

The new 10,000 sq. ft. headquarters will house the foundation’s social service activities, displays honoring American and Vietnamese veterans of the war in Southeast Asia, and a museum of art and cultural items from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. The building, last used as a bingo hall, was originally a furniture store.

The Friendship Foundation of American-Vietnamese plans a number of upcoming events in its new facility. On Saturday and Sunday, December 10th and 11th ,from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. a holiday bazaar will feature special items for sale including women’s jewelry, handmade purses, art items, fashion items, clothing and other handicrafts from Vietnam and other Asian countries. Special teas from Vietnam will be available. The museum exhibit area will also be open with displays of art and cultural objects, plus a special exhibit area for Vietnam veterans. Proceeds from the sale of bazaar items  will go toward charitable work in Vietnam.

In January the foundation’s Low Income Tax Clinic will sponsor income tax and financial literacy classes for the English as a Second Language community. In February the building will house the annual Asian New Year’s Eve Party.


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