Laotian American Society (LAS) was officially established as a non-profit organization in 2005. Five years prior another group of younger generation Lao-Americans of the greater Atlanta organized Laotian American Organization (LAO). The group slowly faded but some members did not want to give up on the hope of recognizing a fast growing community of Laotian-Americans.
Around 2003, originally known as Laotians of Atlanta by other organizations, volunteers 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. Some volunteers were called by local government offices, businesses, media, and other Asian organizations to report events and participations from the Lao community which included the Wat Lao (temples) and Lao Christian community.
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 a pro bono legal adviser, Paul Huang and established its legal name, Laotian American Society (LAS) and its by law. A board was formed and committees were organized to run an organization in serving the Lao community and sharing with others information about the Lao culture and heritage. During this time, LAS has filed with Georgia’s Secretary of State as a Corporation and 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, paperwork was sent in and LAS filed for its non-profit status with the IRS. In June 2005, LAS’s long wait was over with and officially received its non-profit organization 501c.3 status.
LAS started off as a dream to many volunteers in its organization but became a reality when its community and members supported it. Even before the organization received its non-profit status, the educational committee worked on scholarship awards and educational recognition programs. Selflessness acts of volunteers worked hard raising funds for college grants and special recognition for younger students. In a joint effort with the Wat Lao, traditional dance classes were organized. English and citizenship tutoring programs were 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. LAS 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. LAS 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). There is still so much more work and help that is needed in improving the community. All the support is greatly appreciated from its fellow organizations however it is significantly important to have the participation from the LAS community. 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.