Community Seva raises funds for the homeless

Nathan Ganeshan With Guests
Nathan Ganeshan With Guests

Lakshmi Iyer
MILPITAS, CA: Community Seva, the non-profit organization that serves the poor and homeless in the Bay Area, held its first fundraiser dinner on Saturday, 22 September at India Community Center, Milpitas, marking the occasion of the 5th anniversary of its birth.
Founded by Nathan Ganeshan, Community Seva grew from a tiny seed of an idea to a giving Tree of Life, providing nourishment and support to many unfortunate people. Volunteers go out to soup kitchens and also collect toiletries and other essentials to distribute among the homeless.

The organization has the distinction of being voted 2018 California NonProfit of the Year.
The evening’s program started with a silent auction and networking session outside. A performance by Tufaan opened the event on stage followed by a speech by the founder, Nathan Ganeshan.
Assemblymember Ash Kalra came up on stage, and called out for contributions. He started off with asking for $3000 sponsors to feed a thousand people at the rate of $3 per meal. The first to chip in was none other than Mr. Kalra’s own father.
The next tier was $1000 to provide a hundred homeless people with shower and laundry facilities once a week.
He then called out for $500 and $250, the latter for winter backpacks with essential supplies for homeless people, and lastly for $100 contributions.

The response was phenomenal as several generous donors supported each tier of contribution.
Many local elected representatives were present at the event including US Congressman Ro Khanna, Assemblymember Kansen Chu and his wife Daisy Chu, Fremont Council member Raj Salwan, Cupertino Council member Savitha Vaidyanathan, Sunnyvale Council member Nancy Smith, and San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco.
Many of the attending dignitaries presented Ganesh Nathan with certificates, recognizing Community Seva for its excellent work. The organization has also received commendations from several other elected officials.
Community Seva presented their own award – the Tree of Life Award to Mahesh Nihalani, who is on their Advisory Committee.

In the interlude, the girls of Noorani Dance put up a wonderful Kathak dance drama.

Community Seva did not fail to recognize its star volunteers, without whom so much growth would not have been possible. Special mention was made of one of the items at the silent auction – a painting of Mother Teresa by a star in the fast painting world, artist Vilas Naik. In a recorded video clip, Vilas said that both Mother Teresa and Community Seva had the same mission – feeding the poor and homeless.
The attendees were treated to a delicious dinner, courtesy Dakshin restaurant.

Ro Khanna Nathan Ganeshan
Ro Khanna – Nathan Ganeshan

The evening closed with a vote of thanks by Executive Director Saras Venkatram. She gave a special shout out to the youth volunteers who had come up with the idea of Tree of Life, and the sponsors including Dakshin and Sangeetha restaurants for the awesome appetizers and dinner, without whom the wonderful evening would not have been possible.

The floor was then thrown open for dancing, bringing the night to a celebratory end.
In a conversation with this reporter, Ganeshan elaborated on the roots of his idea. He wanted to celebrate birthdays and special occasions with the poor and needy. His parents had inculcated these values in him and he said that his late mother’s soul would be very pleased to see his actions.
When queried about the attitude of Indian Americans to the issue of homelessness as the community is relatively well off, he surprised us with his reply. He has met people of Indian origin in shelters. In a telling fact about the precariousness of the American dream, he revealed that he himself could have been homeless when he was unemployed for more than six months.

About drug abuse among the homeless, he believes that these people deserve a chance. They are extremely grateful when he and his volunteers help them and some even want to give back when they get back on their feet.
One of the daunting fears that stops many homeless people from reintegrating into the mainstream is the fear of getting hurt, of failure. To paraphrase Nathan, “I have been hurt before. What if I get hurt again?”
As human beings, we can all relate to that.

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