Family services organization at risk of shutting down

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Asian American Family Services emerged from a need 20 years ago. But now unless they raise $100,000 in the next 30 days, they'll be forced to close their doors (KTRK)

Asian American Family Services emerged from a need 20 years ago in Houston.

"Anybody who comes to us, we provide services for," said CEO Daniel Stoecker.

AAFS has served tens of thousands of people over the years. Its programs include everything from senior support groups for immigrants and refugees to anti-bullying campaigns for school children. Staff counselors and clinicians specialize in various Asian cultures and speak different languages to translate for their clients.

"We've done psychiatric services in their native tongues," said AAFS Board President Shaukat Zakaria. "So, it's not just about providing general psychiatric services, but it's knowing the culture the client is coming from."

Mostly, AAFS clients are Asian-Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean. But their reach extends far beyond Asian cultures and communities.

"When we first got involved in this organization, it was for marriage therapy," said one client who chose to remain anonymous.

Talking openly about mental health issues is taboo in many Asian cultures.

"Much of the reason I keep coming back here is because I believe in what this place stands for," he said.

The client said his family also received therapy for a suicidal child.

AAFS clients pay for services on a sliding scale, based on what they can afford. But now, their services are in jeopardy. Unless they raise $100,000 in the next 30 days, they will be forced to close their doors.

"We have not been granted a lot of the grants we've applied for," said Zakaria. "Therefore our funding is extremely low."

It's a trend that's hitting non-profits across the country-more and more worthy charities are competing for the same dollars.

"Those funds have diminished as everyone knows - on the Federal, State and Local levels," said Stoecker. "It's always about building community support, partners, donations from the community -- that's very important."

Fundraisers and event planners are forced to come up with creative ways to grab the attention of potential donors.

"We saw that with the (ALS) ice bucket challenge that really started out small and what it blew up into was spectacular and amazing," said President of Elias Events, Deborah Elias.

Her company specializes in non-profit events. She suggests: getting away from galas, or combining them with creative entertainment like fashion shows or concerts; try a luncheon for a change to draw in a different crowd; niche events like golf tournaments and wine tastings can also work to keep donors engaged and interested in an event; and don't forget social media!

"There's or; You get to see the goal and there's the meter chart, and you can donate online and then pass it onto your friends and other supporters," said Elias. "And you can choose to remain anonymous."

Zakaria said AAFS is down to its last dollars.

"So myself and a couple of board members will make some contributions so we can make payroll on Monday," he explained.

They hope to reach their $100,000.00 goal by September 30 in order to keep their doors open and critical services running for the thousands of clients who need them.

"It gave us the tools to take care of ourselves and take care of each other," one client said about AAFS.

To donate to AAFS, you can go to their website.
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