Our Town: Metro AtlantaImmigrant services organization celebrates diversity

If you go

The Ninth Annual “Together Empowering Asian-Americans” or TEA Walk is 9 a.m. t0 1 p.m. today.

The 2-mile walk kicks off from the CPACS office at 3510 Shallowford Road and winds north on Buford Highway. Details about the event are online at www.cpacs.org; 770-936-0969.

Atlanta is a culturally diverse community, a fact that’s immediately apparent to those who visit the Center Pan Asian Community Services. Since 1980, the DeKalb-based organization has been helping immigrants and refugees from Korea, China, Vietnam, India and other countries assimilate into the American fabric.

“There are 16 different languages spoken here,” said Victoria Huynh , CPACS’s vice president. “We work to overcome many barriers here, but the first is language access. About 48 percent of our members have limited English proficiency.”

Since its inception, CPACS has grown from a main office on Shallowford Road to having satellite centers around the metro area where English instruction is offered. CPACS also staffs 10 programs that serve about 2,600 clients every month. They range from after-school activities, social and transportation services, housing information and alcohol and domestic violence prevention.

“We believe it’s very important for people to overcome cultural barriers,” said Huynh. “For instance, one particular thing newcomers need to know is what the rights and protections are in the U.S. Also, a lot of newly-arrived refugees may not have the money to start off here, so we help them find employment and explain to them the transportation system.”

But the main objective of the group is bigger than just helping newcomers get acclimated, said CPACS CEO Chai Won Kim, who joined the organization in 1990.

“We are a full service agency that serves the diverse community and partners with different organizations and ethnic groups to promote social change,” she said. “Our goal is to make things better for us and the second generation that is here.”

For the last eight years, many of those groups have united with CPACS to celebrate the richness of Atlanta’s culture with a walk down Buford Highway. The Ninth Annual “Together Empowering Asian-Americans” or TEA Walk will take to the street again from 9 a.m. t0 1 p.m. today.

Promoted as one of the largest empowerment walks in the South, the TEA event is more than merely a solidarity stroll, said Huynh.

“It’s about celebrating all cultures,” she said. “We have hip-hop and steel drum groups, Vietnamese sandwiches, Bhutanese samosas, Jamaican patties — all sorts of music and food. Last year, we had 16,000 people come from 15 states; people from many different races and ethnicities joined us just to learn about different cultures.”

The walk and its festival of music and food are free. “This is not a fundraising event,” said Huynh. “If people want to help us cover the costs, we ask for $5 donations that would be appreciated.”

Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or call 770- 744-3042.