Tumwater Rotary Club awarded Khurshida Begum its 2022 Business Person of the Year in appreciation for her meal donation program launched during the pandemic.
“Her 'buy one, give one' program enabled homebound residents in our region to not only get tasty, affordable dinner meals for their families, but to double the impact as her pricing included providing an equal number of meals to nonprofits serving low-income and vulnerable people in our community.” Tumwater Rotarian Paul Knox in his nomination letter.
“Our agency has gotten to know Khurshida over the past decade first through her advocacy and education work to prevent and end human trafficking, and later through her amazing work to open the ASHHO Cultural and Community Center. Her vision of providing a welcoming space for building connection across difference, as well as supporting workforce development for young people, including youth furthest from educational justice, is a beautiful one that is aligned with Rotary values, and TOGETHER! values,” wrote Meghan Sullivan, deputy director of TOGETHER!, in her nomination letter.
Tumwater Rotary Club presented Begum her award at Rivers Edge Restaurant on Wednesday.
“Each year, Tumwater Rotary honors a Tumwater business whose work reflects the service club’s mission of ‘Service Above Self’ by providing service to others, promoting integrity, and advancing world understanding, goodwill, and peace through its fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders,” according to Denise Keegan, whose term as 2021-22 president of the club ended minutes after she presented the award.
Begum’s organization is called ASHHO (pronounced “ahsh-o”). The word is both an acronym and common Bengali word meaning “come join.” It’s short for Advocate, Serve, Honor Humanity and Organize. She established the ASHHO Cultural Community Center (CCC) during the pandemic to provide a base both for its catering services and other programs that need space in which to operate.
She began plans for the CCC prior to the pandemic. According to Knox, Begum “worked closely with and gained the support of the owners of the former Pellegrino’s Event Center to re-open the building after its pandemic closure. The CCC has hosted a multitude of community, business and private events and has become one of the destination places to go in Tumwater.”
Catering for the larger community
Begum’s Buy One-Give One program, where customers orders meals priced in such a way that also funded prepared meals for “low income and vulnerable people in our community” through various nonprofit organizations.
“What really makes us very unique is that the quality of food donate to somebody that is a dependent person or living in a shelter or is in the tent community is the same,” as what the CCC provides to its catering customers, Begum told the Rotarians.
Organizations partnering with the Cultural Community Center include TOGETHER!, Family Education and Support Center, Community Youth Services and Family Support Center. ASHHO made “meals for thousands across our urban region over the past year,” said Tumwater Rotary.
For now, the CCC is open by appointment for event space, weddings, training, etc. In September, Begum plans to launch the Soul Café at the CCC, a multicultural cafe with regular hours, open to the public.
Tomorrow: Walk with Erin – Saturday, July 2, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., ASHHO will host another of its neighborhood walks lead by Erin Jones, a local author and educator. The walks are designed to enable local people to “walk alongside each other to connect and create change, according to ASHHO’s website.
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