In the early 1990s, Vida Lin became aware of a disturbing family situation in Las Vegas.
Lin, who was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, found out that her young nephew in Las Vegas was afraid of his schoolteacher.
The boy’s parents eventually went to the principal, which led to a backlash by some people who got wind of their complaints.
“They went to the principal, tried to meet with the teacher,” Lin said. “The teacher brushed them away, claiming my nephew didn’t speak English. But he was born in the U.S.; he spoke English. When they tried to go to the school board and the PTA, the family was threatened.”
Lin said they received phone calls from people who told them to “go back to their country.”
It was that experience that hatched Lin’s idea for what would become the Asian Community Development Council (ACDC), a nonprofit organization with 30 full-time employees that strives to “improve the general well-being and education” of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the Las Vegas area.
Soon after that school crisis, Lin brought her own family to Las Vegas and got involved in the insurance business.
“I wanted to get some help and support for our community,” Lin said. “There was a need for guidance. In California, we had organizations. In Las Vegas back then, there was nothing here.”
Lin’s dream wasn’t realized right away. There is a lot of planning involved in starting an organization like the ACDC, she said.
In 2015, when the organization received its nonprofit status, the dream was realized, but the work had just begun.
“I had been thinking about it for 20 years,” Lin said with a laugh.
Much of what the organization does centers on connecting individuals and resources. That could include anything from help securing a small business loan to rental assistance or food services for those out of work.
Lin said the organization has also focused on the U.S. Census participation, access to health insurance and voter registration.
“If we’re not counted, we’re not going to be heard,” Lin said.
According to the latest census data, nearly 380,000 members of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities live in Nevada, the vast majority in Clark County.
David Huang, managing director of Skylar Consulting, a business services firm in Las Vegas, said he became an ACDC board member because he believes the Asian community is underrepresented in Southern Nevada.
“Many Asian residents do not have access to or knowledge of the community programs and services available to the public,” Huang said. “[The council] works to bridge that gap by eliminating the barriers—language or cultural—that many in our community face.”
Lin, who is from a Chinese American family, though she has lived her entire life in the U.S., said she hopes her organization can help bring about change for years to come.
While hatred toward Asian people is not a new phenomenon, Lin said she was discouraged by what she saw following the outbreak of coronavirus, which was first identified in 2019 in China.
“We saw that rise in anti-Asian hate,” Lin said. “People weren’t going to the Asian-owned businesses. There were a lot of people who thought that we brought them the virus. We had to get our community together. We had to get information about a lot of pandemic-related things to our community, which includes a lot of different languages.”
Lin said she’s proud of what the council accomplished during the worst days of the pandemic.
“A lot of small-business owners in our community didn’t know how to apply for government benefits during the pandemic,” Lin said. “Some businesses survived, some didn’t. A lot of people had to change professions. In the state, we have about 32,000 Asian-owned businesses. We still have a lot of issues to work through.”
Together, Lin and her staff at ACDC believe they can continue to do a lot of good in Las Vegas.
“We’re here to help,” she said. “Let’s support each other.”
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This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.