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Brothers Anil and Gautam Godhwani, first generation Indians and successful entrepreneurs, founded the India Community Center (ICC) in Milpitas in February 2003. Joining them in the grand undertaking were other successful Indian American entrepreneurs and professionals who helped build and grow the non-profit, non-religious, non-political organization into what it is today, a hub for all things Indian in the Bay Area.

Conceived in the notion of providing the Indian community a place where it could find comfort in various facets of their culture, where it could celebrate festivals and social milestones, where unique traditions could be preserved and practiced, and where people of other cultures could explore and experience Indian traditions and values, ICC has made a great impact on the greater Bay Area and has garnered an impressive membership base.

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“ICC’s impact is multi-dimensional and very profound,” stated Kumar Malavalli, current Chairman of the ICC Board of Trustees. He continued, “[It] has brought different segments and age groups of the community together under one roof, [and it has] offered programs that are very dear to these segments touching various aspects of Indian arts and culture and community services such as a health clinic not only open to the Indian community but also to the main stream American community at large.”

ICC has become an invaluable resource center for the whole Indian community, especially benefitting its youngest and oldest members. Within its 38,000 square foot facility in Milpitas, ICC is able to provide a myriad of social, cultural, educational, professional and recreational programs. The community can avail of its free: Medical Clinic, Legal Clinic, Behavioral Clinic, Career Resource and Tax Clinic.

It also offers programming in other Bay Area communities, such as a Senior Center in Cupertino and summer camps held in facilities in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale.

Under the guidance, direction and support of its Board of Trustees, Board of Directors, and Executive Director Tanuja Bahal, ICC’s professional staff and hundreds of volunteers have been able to provide a wide range of prestigious programs and services, such as its summer camps, the Table Tennis program, and other culturally sensitive events. Since it’s founding in 2003, ICC has had its share of struggles, but it has persevered through its formative years by focusing on “building a community.” Bahal stated, “We are a different cultural identity, so we’ve had to tweak the program [and] our offerings. It’s been a trial by fire, but it’s also about wanting to change. [And while] there are cultural vagaries that we bring to the table, [we try to] understand those vagaries and [we’ve remained focused on our vision of] building a strong community that will support the rest of the community.”

Staying true to its vision has allowed ICC to flourish and today it is recognized as the largest and only Indian American community center of its kind in North America. It has seen significant growth in just about every aspect, including space, programs, budget (from $500,000 to $3 million in 2010), newsletter readership (from less than 500 to over 15,000 in 2010), donations, usage, etc.

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One of ICC’s more popular events is the Youthsava, an all day event in which over 100 dance teams of 4-12 kids go on stage to compete. “ICC Youthsava is a program that positively affects the lives of young Indian kids in the Bay Area,” said Srividya Eashwar, Director of Xpressions. She added, “[It] offers a unique platform for the youth to express themselves through music and dance and stay connected with their Indian roots. [Youthsava] not only helps showcase ethnic dances from India but also covers the new generation music and dance styles.” The top three teams receive trophies and a prize for best costume is also awarded. This year’s Youthsava will take place on Saturday, April 27.

Seva is “service which is given without consideration of anything in return” and Sevathon is the popular ICC-initiated Marathon/Walkathon event that aims to bring together the entire Bay Area community in celebration of community services and to motivate non-profit organizations to continue their selfless work. Sevathon is the largest social and service platform of its kind and the ICC invites all walkers, runners, non-profits, sponsors, family members and friends to attend and participate. Sevathon will take place on Sunday, July 14 at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale.

ICC Executive Director, Tanuja Bahal, believes that the collective efforts of the non-profit community will garner more support and encourage the advancement of its many deserving causes. She is looking forward to an incredible turnout at this year’s Sevathon.

Bahal stated, “[Sevathon] truly does unite the community. This year our goal is to get 100 non-profit partners and the event will allow people to not only support needy causes close to their hearts but really expand their minds and create awareness for the diversity of needs that non profits try to fulfill.”

Also, this year, in addition to the non-profit partnership and sponsorship opportunities,Sevathon will offer several teen internships. Interested and qualifying teens can earn community service hours by working directly with Sevathon committee leads. For more information about Sevathon, visit http://www.indiacc.org/sevathon.Rakhi Israni is particularly impressed with ICC’s preschool program. She stated, “[It] has created a complete environment by which a child can develop the necessary foundation for a sound academic background and for a good life.They teach my two year old the alphabet, the colors, the numbers, etc. – just as any good school would, but they also inculcate within the child the importance of knowing and being proud of your culture. As studies have shown, a child who is proud of his heritage and background is a child that feels the power to accomplish anything.”

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But perhaps, the most touching and compelling testament to ICC’s success is that of Dr. Vishin Jotwani and his wife Kiran who have participated in many aspects of the seniors program. “As other seniors in the Bay Area, I spent a large part of my life in India,” Jotwani began his story. “When I migrated to the United States to spend my retired years with my children and grandchildren, I was anxious about starting a new social and intellectual life in a country where I had no friends and my children and grandchildren were busy during weekdays in their own lives. I had, as a medical doctor, established a strong community of friends in New Delhi and was trying to understand how I should go about starting this stage of my life in a new country. I was introduced to the India Community Center by my children and some friends, and at first I was skeptical, but very soon realized that other seniors like me were also starting to come to the center.” Jotwani and his wife frequent ICC (both the Milpitas campus and the Cupertino Senior Center) where they continue to meet new people and foster friendships with people from all regions of India.

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But friendships, Jotwani clarified, are not the only aspect of his life at ICC. “ICC has structured discussions about topics that are dear to us and we are learning so much from our peers based on their experiences. The speaker sessions are my favorite where I have heard speeches from doctors, dancers, singers, philosophers, religious leaders and others. I often wonder how I would have achieved such a stimulating environment in Delhi. Probably by driving to different centers and here in ICC it is truly a ‘one-stop-shop,’” he stated.Israni’s sentiments sums up the value of the ICC best. She stated, “The presence of ICC in the Bay Area has filled a void that needed filling, a void that wasn’t evident until the formation and growth of ICC showed us its necessity can perhaps sum up ICC’s value. India is a country of diverse people, languages, and cultures. ICC has done a superb job in bringing all together, young and old to celebrate the diversity of our culture. When you step on Indian soil, you feel a part of the country, you feel its culture and heritage, and you feel the richness of life. Similarly, when you step into the ICC, you feel a part of a larger community–of your own community.”ICC’s renowned programs and services (e.g., Bollywood dance, yoga, table tennis, language classes, GMAT, karaoke, music, Kids’ Summer Camps, carrom, etc.) will be showcased. Learn more about ICC’s modern, full-scale Fitness Center, the Community Partners Program, Sevathon (the annual fundraiser for non-profit partners), and others.

March 17, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 525 Los Coches St, Milpitas. Free.

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