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Hmong Fellowship Dinner set for April 20

RELEASED: April 1, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host the 22nd annual Hmong Fellowship Dinner from 5-7 p.m. April 20 in the Council Fire Room of Davies Center.

The dinner is an opportunity for community members, nonprofit agencies and businesses to come together to reflect on the progress and shifting needs of the Hmong community, said Mary Lee, vice president of the Eau Claire Hmong Mutual Assistance Association board and member of UW-Eau Claire's Upward Bound staff.

"Although we call it the Hmong Fellowship Banquet, we are part of the larger community and we really want to emphasize that. This dinner is put together for everyone," Lee said.

Blia Schwahn, the school/community liaison for the Eau Claire Area School District, will be the keynote speaker. Schwahn will reflect on her experience in the community as she addresses the event's theme, "Sowing the Seeds of Success."

"This year's theme is closely related to our youth programs, particularly the Building Bridges program," said Pa Thao, executive director of HMAA. "As this program helps to prepare young students to be our future leaders, we want to create an environment where they want to stay and give back to the community."

The Building Bridges program helps to bridge cultures and generations while embracing similarities and differences between the two, said UW-Eau Claire senior Kelli Schlegelmilch, Granton, a co-coordinator for the Building Bridges program. The program currently includes 19 Hmong middle school and high school students, 15 UW-Eau Claire volunteers/mentors and two missionary volunteers/mentors.

"This program allows university students to learn and be exposed to the realities and experiences of a minority group such as the Hmong," said senior Sherfeng Vue, Eau Claire, who serves with Schlegelmilch as co-coordinator.

The event will also be an opportunity for the HMAA to formally announce details about a new academic scholarship that will be awarded to a local high school senior and an eighth grader, said Thao, noting that the organization wanted "to show that our local community is supportive of the educational ambitions of our students."

Scholarship applications will be taken after the banquet and an announcement of winners is planned to be made at Hmoobfest, scheduled for June 18-19.

A silent auction featuring artwork from participants in the Building Bridges program will also be part of the event. Proceeds from the silent auction will go to support future activities and programming.

Registration will begin at 5 p.m. and the program will begin at 5:30 p.m. A dinner that features Hmong dishes will be served at 6:45 p.m. and light entertainment also will be provided.

Event sponsors include the Eau Claire Area HMAA, UW-Eau Claire's Office of Multicultural Affairs and the UW-Eau Claire department of accounting and finance.

Reservations for the banquet are encouraged by April 13, but not required. For more information and to make reservations, contact the HMAA at 715-832-8420.

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DY/RD/DW

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