Modesto Cambodian Buddhist Society wins three-year grant

lrenner@modbee.comJuly 30, 2013 

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Debbie Noda/ Attendees review the colorful individual buddha temples and new statuary at the Modesto Cambodian Buddhist Society Inc. celebration of the Cambodian New Year, held at their grounds at 1538 Grimes Ave., April 13, 2013.

DEBBIE NODA — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

    alternate textLisa Millegan Renner
    Title: Arts and entertainment writer
    Coverage areas: Theater, dance, visual arts, music of all kinds, festivals
    Bio: Lisa Millegan Renner has been a staff writer at The Bee since 1997. She has a journalism degree from the University of Oregon Honors College and is a past fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts Arts Journalism Institute for Theater and Musical Theater. She previously worked at the San Mateo County Times, Tri-Valley Herald and San Joaquin News Service.
    Recent stories written by Lisa
    On Twitter: @MilleganRenner

— The Modesto Cambodian Buddhist Society won a $60,000 three-year grant from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts to help preserve its cultural heritage.

The group was one of seven San Joaquin Valley nonprofits to receive a $60,000 grant. All serve low-income people of color.

Van Prom, the society board president, said this is the first funding his group has received from outside its community. The organization was thrilled to get such a big award. "It's a miracle for a first try."

In a news release, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts called the Modesto Cambodian Buddhist Society "a beacon for the Khmer community." The alliance praised the society for its Grimes Avenue temple expansion project (a larger temple is due to be completed by 2016), its dance program and its efforts to register voters.

"Modesto Cambodian's multigenerational leadership team is a national model for engagement of people from all ages of a community, each contributing their skills to the common good," said Amy Kitchener, the alliance's executive director, in a statement. "I can't wait to see them in action."

Kitchener said the alliance will partner with the society to help it invest the money so that it can create future revenues. Prom said the money will help teach the society's leaders how to raise funds, how to interact with other organizations and to ensure a sustainable future.

"We're trying to preserve our traditional music, our traditional games, our traditional way of life," Prom said. "It's not just the religion part, it's the cultural part. We want to preserve that for our kids. Once my generation — I'm in my 40s — passes, they won't know what to do for our ancestral ceremonies."

Prom praised society publicist KC Chhan for finding the grant and doing the bulk of the work on the application. "We worked on it until 4 or 5 in the morning," Prom said.

Merced Lao Family Community also received a $60,000 three-year grant for its work ensuring self-sufficiency for Lao-Hmong refugees.

The grants are part of the Community Leadership Project, a joint partnership of the David and Lucile Packard, James Irvine, and William and Flora Hewlett foundations intended to build nonprofits' capacity to serve low-income people and communities of color.

Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan Renner can be reached at or (209) 578-2313.

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