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CHICAGO, IL, January 30, 2008
PCS Chicago
Rajinder Mago

The Asian American Coalition of Chicago honored Indian Americans Ms. Harleen Kaur Saini, and Mr. Laxman Alreja at their 25th Annual Lunar New Year Celebration on Saturday, January 26, 2008, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. This year's gala event themed "Dawn of New Asia 2008" was hosted by the Pakistani American community of Chicago, with Chicago attorney Pamela Leeming, with the Cook County state's attorney office, serving as chairperson.

More than 1000 people attended this extravaganza. The attendees included many local dignitaries and the counsel generals including Hon. Ashok Kumar Attri of India, and Hon. Dr. Aman Rashid of Pakistan, and of many other Asian countries.

“The purpose of this celebration is to showcase the culture, strength in diversity, and harmony of Asian Americans of Chicago,” said Rajinder Singh Mago of Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago, “no doubt it has the undertones of political empowerment,” he added.

A record number of Asian American and other candidates running for office this year on February 5 primaries participated in the political forum which preceded the main stage event, signaling the group's draw as a valuable political constituency.

The candidates included Paul Chadha, a Punjabi American, democrat, running for Illinois State House of Representative from 26th. district. Paul Chadha is an attorney at Accenture. He is formerly of the air force, chairman of “Streetwise”, and board of La Rabida Hospital.

According to the latest Census, the Asian Pacific American population in Illinois numbers approximately 3.4% of the statewide population. This celebration is traditionally the single largest organized annual event in Chicago's Asian American community.

“The Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago and Sikh American Heritage Organization officials have consistently and proactively been involved in Asian American Coalition of Chicago for the last two decades, because we believe in it,” said Amarjit Kaur Atwal president PCS.

Businessman Mr. Laxman Alreja received the Indian American Community Service Award. Harleen Kaur Saini received “Youth who Excels“ Award. Other Community Service Awards and “Youth Who Excels” awards were also given to representatives of various other participating communities.

The opening ceremonies included a procession and grand entrance of the Chicago TV personalities who were co-presenters at the program. The keynote address was given by the Hon. Anne M. Burke, Illinois Supreme Chief Justice.

Isra J. Bhatty, 2008 Rhodes Scholar at age 23, of Glenview , Illinois , was the next generation Keynote Speaker.

Top dignitaries who attended include Illinois Lt. Governor Pat Quinn; Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, Illinois , and Mayor of Palatine Rita Mullins.

The Hon. Timothy C. Evans, Chief Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County , Illinois , received the Coalition's Grand Asian AWARD. Judge Evans was praised for opening doors to minorities for appointment as judges. This award is periodically presented to someone of non-Asian descent, who has made significant contributions to the Asian Pacific American community.

TV broadcaster Linda Yu presented the prestigious Pan Asian American Ping Tom Memorial Award to James Yumin Law, the Vice President of Planning and External Affairs, Chicago Children’s Museum, and served as longtime Executive Director of the City of Chicago Mayor ’s Office of Special Events.

The cultural program included the Dilshad Group, the Indonesian American Community, Bhangra by UIC Bhangra team presented by the Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago, the KAPWA Dance Group of Loyola University Chicago, and the Korean American Community.

The Chicago celebrity TV personalities co-presenters were: Rehan Aslam, FOX Chicago TV News, Ravi Baichwal, ABC 7 News, Ellee Pai Hong, NBC 5 Chicago News, Eric S. Horng, ABC News, Jan Jeffcoat, FOX Chicago TV News, Nancy Loo, FOX Chicago TV News, Joanie Lum, CBS 2 Chicago News, Mai Martinez, CBS 2 Chicago News, Marc Rita, Actor/Director/Producer, Judy Wang, CLTV News, and Linda Yu, ABC 7 News

An event held on this grand of a scale only once a year, Lunar New Year is traditionally the single largest organized annual event in Chicago ’s Asian American community.

The following twelve people received the 2008 Community Service Award:

Laxman Alreja, President and Chief Executive Officer, AAA Galvanizing Industries, Inc. (Joliet, Illinois), Member, Hindu Temple (Lemont, Illinois) and Aryasamaj (Chicago, Illinois); Indian American Community, Sharmeen Younus, Pakistani American Community, Mahabubul Kabir, Bangladeshi American Community, Sharda J. Thapa, Nepalese American Community, Ruth Kung, Chinese American Community, Ernie J. Lapid, CPA; Filipino American Community, Kus Folkers, Indonesian American Community Awardee, Jean Mishima, Japanese American Community, Dr. Issac I. Suh, Korean American Community, Dr. Kim K. Tee, Malaysian American Community, Poxie Xumsai, Thai American Community, and Hai Giap, Vietnamese American Community.

The following received the 2008 YOUTH WHO EXCELS AWARD:

Harleen Kaur Saini, High School Senior, Palatine High School (Palatine, Illinois), Indian American Community, Aruj S. Chaudhry, Pakistani American Community, Syeda Shammun Kader, Bangladeshi American Community, Angela Weng, Chinese American Community, Jonathan Martin Chua, Filipino American Community, Ari Wijanarko Adipratomo, Indonesian American Community, Laura Yamasaki, Japanese American Community, Grace J. Kim, Korean American Community, Tanya Pardungkiattisak , Thai American Community, and Thuy Ai, Vietnamese American Community.

The gavel was passed on to the next year’s host Korean American community, accepted by the president of Korean American Association.

The Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago is a not-for-profit community organization devoted to promoting education, good citizenship, Punjabi culture, language, performing arts, healthy life style, and sports in the metropolitan Chicago area.

Other P.C.S. programs include: “Rangla Punjab 2008,” scheduled for April 12, at Gateway Theater in Chicago and “Punjabi Sports Festival 2008,” planned for the summer of 2008. Scholarships for Punjabi youth will be awarded at the “Graduation Night 2008” in June , 2008., and 7th Annual PCS Chicago International Bhangra and Gidha Competition in late fall 2008.