HISTORY OF SAURASHTRA PATEL CULTURAL SAMAJ
By Madhukant J. Ramani
A Samaj is born
In 1976, a small but growing Saurashtra Patel community here in the United States of America, was approached by the Saurashtra Patel Kelvani Mandal in Vallabh Vidyanagar for contributions to help build a much needed (and new) Boarding in Vidyanagar. Small as it was, the Saurashtra Patel community responded to this request admirably. With the help of its generous members, the SPCS raised $5,804 for the worthwhile cause.
In 1978, Saurashtra Patel Kelvani Mandal in Ahmedabad called upon the Saurashtra Patel community, which was now a somewhat better organized community for educational aid in India. The now larger community, through its members’ renewed generosity, collected $9,855 to help expand the existing facilities at Ahmedabad.
The impact of these concentrated efforts was very encouraging and this awakening as a new group led us to pursue the social, cultural and religious needs of our community here in the United States. The idea to organize our community was conceived by Jayantbhai Zalavadia, Pravinbhai Sheladia and the late Bhimjibhai Bhalala in Washington D.C.
This led to the formation of a new group which would pursue the fulfillment of the social, cultural and religious needs of our community here in the U.S and came to be known as the Saurashtra Patel Cultural Samaj (SPCS).
In late 1978, a general meeting of our community members was organized at Jayantbhai’s home in Hicksville, NY to present the idea of organizing the Samaj. An ad-hoc committee was formed with Jayantbhai as the President, Popatlal Kabaria as the Vice-President, and the late Zaverbhai Bhayani as Secretary and Madhukant Ramani as Treasurer.
The Samaj comes together
To foster unity and to get acquainted with each other and keep the culture and heritage, on August 19, 1980, the New York Metropolitan area organized the first SPCS summer picnic. The attendance at that picnic was only 35 families, but that picnic would go on to become a tradition for not only New York, but for all the subchapters that were formed since then. In 1982, the first Diwali program was organized in the New York Metropolitan area, starting yet another nationwide tradition!
In July 2002, the SPCS celebrated their 3rd International Convention, an event that unites our community members from around the country. Previously organized in and hosted by the Chicago and New Jersey chapters respectively, the 3rd Convention was hosted in sunny Ontario, California.
Through these events and in many other ways, the SPCS has united the Saurashtra Patel community in the United States and has helped to retain the glorious religious and festive heritage of Saurashtra.
Drafting the Constitution
Soon thereafter, with the encouragement and guidance of Batukbhai Viradia, the Constitution was drafted and signed by Madhukant Ramani, Zaverbhai Bhayani and Popatlal M. Kabaria. The following long-term goals were set at the time for the organization:
- To exchange ideas, increase social activities and to preserve our heritage, culture and religion among our community members here in the USA
- To provide help and guidance to newly arrived members here in the USA
- To promote educational activities and help non-profit educational and religious institutions at home and abroad for better education of the young generation.
- To make a coordinated effort to publish a directory of the Saurashtra Patel Cultural Samaj. Popatlal Kabaria conceived the idea of this directory and the first directory was published in 1980 with a listing of slightly more than 100 families. Our organization was the first one to publish this kind of directory. The response was and continues to be overwhelming and we have continued the tradition of a bi-annual publication of the directory.
Journey to Non-Profit Status
Shortly after organizing the committee, with the encouragement of Mr. Upenbhai M. Saraiya, CPA, we directed our efforts to register our organization as a non-profit, tax-deductible one. Upenbhai worked extremely hard on our behalf and in May of 1983 we were officially granted non-profit status. This was a very important milestone in our history and because of the time that Upenbhai graciously donated, we acquired the status with a minimal expense of $25.
With the aid of Dhirubhai Bhagat, we received the help of attorney-at-law, Suresh Dalal, who wrote the Articles of Incorporation to register with the State of New Jersey. The document was signed by Madhukant J. Ramani, Popatlal M. Kabaria, Zaverbhai P. Bhayani, Popatlal D. Patel and Chaturbhai N. Vaghasia.
Growth of Our Samaj
Although the organization’s foundation was established in the New York/New Jersey area, the Samaj has continued to grow with the birth of chapters in Chicago, California, Washington D.C., Texas, Detroit, Arizona and Atlanta.
Our growth here in the U.S. has not gone unnoticed. We have been blessed with visits from our notable leaders in India. Throughout the years, we have had visits from Shree Dwarkadas Patel, Shree Keshubhai Patel, Shree Manubhai Kotadia, Shree Savajibhai Korat, Shree Ramanikbhai Dhami and many more individuals.
We have collected over $500,000 in the first 16 years for various causes to help the non-profit institutions in India. This fund raising effort continues at a rapid rate to help the needy in India. We have no administrative costs in raising funds and our leaders and members do not ask for any telephone or travel costs. This is truly a testament to the generosity of our community members and strength of our leadership.
On a sad note however, in May of 1992, God called upon one of our founding fathers and our third President, Shree Zaverbhai, when we needed him most. Zaverbhai worked very hard to build this organization. We pray to God for eternal peace to his soul.
The future is today…
The first stage of any building is its foundation. The foundation should be sound and solid enough to sustain a monumental structure. We completed construction of our foundation by July 1996 and began our second stage with the organization of our first International Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
We are now in the second stage of building our organization. For this we need your concrete ideas reinforced with hard work, time and money for future programs. Together we can build this SPCS organization solid enough for future generations to beautify and enjoy it.
On behalf of the founding fathers and the community at large, I thank each one of you who has helped to lay a stone in the foundation of our Saurashtra Patel Cultural Samaj.