Laotian American Society (LAS) was officially established as a non-profit organization in 2005. LAS came about through passionate volunteers of the greater Atlanta Area from former groups including the Laotian American Organization (LAO) and Laotians of Atlanta. Volunteers and members participated in local community cultural, social, and networking events. Many shared the same vision to serve their community to support the younger generations, promote education, create health awareness, recognize role models, support Lao businesses and share the Lao culture with others, stemming the idea of LAS.
For two years, the original founders, Amphone Sengchanh, Cindy Phengphanh, Donna Nielsen, Kassie Vongsitthy, Kaithong Rithmyxay, Malay Surivong, Nonphachan Rithmyxay, Sue Luangrath, and their first elected president, Kasy Khaikham consulted with pro bono legal adviser, Paul Huang, and established its official, legal name Laotian American Society. A board was formed and committees were organized to run the organization in serving the Lao community and sharing information about the Lao culture and heritage. During this time, LAS filed with Georgia’s Secretary of State as a Corporation and was then known as Laotian American Society, Inc. While still trying to establish the organization, the board continued to participate in community events and organized their own LAS functions. The organization finally had enough money and determination, from the help of Malay Surivong and Donna Nielsen, and LAS filed for its non-profit status with the IRS. In June 2005, LAS’s long wait was over and officially received its non-profit organization 501c.3 status.
LAS started off as a dream to many members and volunteers within its organization, but became a reality when its community supported it. Even before the organization received its non-profit status, the educational committee worked on scholarship awards and educational recognition programs through selflessness acts of volunteers who worked hard raising funds for college grants and special recognition for younger Lao students. In a joint effort with the Wat Lao, traditional dance classes were also organized and English and citizenship tutoring programs were additionally implemented. Even with the lack of funds, its members and volunteers never gave up.
With the generosity of so many kind people from everywhere, LAS continues to grow and has been recognized nationally and internationally for its work in serving its community. LAS has continually worked with the three local Lao temples: Wat Lao Buddhakhanti, Wat Lao Buddhamoongcoon and Wat Lao Phothisaram, and has also teamed up with many other local Asian American organizations such as the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP-Atlanta), APAC, GAAAPIC, and the Asian Cultural Experience (ACE).
LAS greatly appreciates all the support from fellow organizations. Though LAS has achieved in improving the community, there is still so much more work and help that is needed to further improve. It is up to the Laotian Americans in the greater Atlanta area to make it its priority and continue to help the next generations follow their dreams.