Photo caption: PICTURED ABOVE ARE award recipients at the third annual India Unity Day held Friday, March 24th, in the auditorium of the Medstar Laboratories, 4531 Harrison, Hillside, IL. (Photo by Chinta Strausberg)
Honoring his years of service to the community and in recognition and support of his Indian constituents, the poor and those in prison, Representative Danny K. Davis (D-7th) was awarded the “Ark of the Covenant” by the American Multi Ethnic Coalition Inc., (AMEC-USA) during the third India Unity Day celebration.
Also receiving an award on Friday, March 24, was Neal Patel, CEO of Medstar. He received the 2023 Edward and Lily Prabhakar Centenary Award, named after Dr. Vijay Prabhakar’s parents, for his consistent business and service to various communities including on Chicago’s West Side and in Englewood.
Patel’s award was presented by Dr. Zenobia Sowell, Governor, American Multi Ethnic Coalition, who placed a medallion around his neck praising him for his leadership and service to the community and declaring March 24 India Unity Day. “It was very humbling,” Patel said.
Receiving the same award was Rakesh Asthana, Secretary General of the Metropolitan Asian Family Services (MAFS), and Sher Mohammed Raiput, a Muslim Indian, who though he was in the middle of Ramadan, attended the India Unity Day celebration as a sign of unity among all Indians.
Accepting his award, Patel told the Chicago Crusader, “Medstar is not only about making money, but it’s about giving back. We give a lot back to the underserved and will continue to do that.
“We are not concerned by competitors who just want money and don’t care about nobody. We’re just the opposite. We are not a multi-billion company, but what little we have we give back.”
Throughout the holiday months, Medstar has given away turkeys, food and gifts to underserved communities and does free medical blood work testing for those who cannot afford it. The company has expanded its West Side Golden Diners gourmet sit-down meals once a month program at two low-income senior buildings managed by the Habilitative Systems, Inc.
Medstar has also donated a trailer to the Gandhi King Center for Nonviolence at the Center for Englewood, 838 W. Marquette Road. Patel said the food will be delivered to the doors of seniors in that food desert community where two grocery stores have closed in the past year.
The awards were given on the third India Unity Day to commemorate the victory in the repeal of a Chicago City Council resolution introduced by Alderman Maria Hadden (49th) three years ago, designed to condemn violence against castes and religious minorities in India.
Her purpose for introducing the resolution was to hold a fellow democracy accountable. The resolution also called on the congressional delegation and the new federal administration to back legislation and other actions promoting secularism and tolerance.
Instead of promoting peace, Hadden’s resolution created disunity within the Indian community, not just in Chicago but in the suburbs and abroad. It was defeated with the help of Dr. Bharat Barai, chairman of the U.S. India Friendship Council, Munster, Indiana, and the leadership of Dr. Prabhakar.
Patel said, “If we all unite, we can work together and be strong….Blood is red. We are all one. No one should be dividing us. We should all unite.”
Representative Davis was also surprised when presented the Ark of the Covenant award by Prabhakar. Accepting the “Ark of the Covenant,” a gold-plated wooden chest that, in Jewish and Christian tradition, houses the two tablets bearing the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God, Davis said he was highly honored.
Prabhakar said his organization and a “circle of faith” were presenting the award to him.
“This is Divine Providence. This is God’s presence,” Prabhakar said about a little boy who was overwhelmed over the award presentation to Davis.
So moved by this honoring of Davis, nine-year-old Nathan George, a fourth-grader from Oswego, IL, commandeered the mic and shocked the audience by explaining the significance of the Ark of the Covenant as being one of the most instrumental symbols of faith and that it represented God’s presence is always with Davis.
A stunned Davis thanked the youth and Indian leaders, explaining his District is culturally and ethnically mixed and with it comes a rich and diverse constituency that reflects this nation.
Prabhakar and other Indian leaders thanked Davis for his service and his consistent support of his Indian constituents not just locally but worldwide. They thanked him for also supporting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as supporting the candidacy of Madhu Uppal, running for City Council in the April 4 Naperville Municipal Election.
Often called the Mayor of Devon, Sher Mohammed Raiput, a founding trustee and professor of East West University, received the Pride of India Award. Giving thanks for the award, Raiput also said his biggest desire is to bring all religions together. “We are all brothers,” Raiput said.
His son, Jatinber Bebi, CEO of Hello NRI, agreed with his father saying, “India is comprised of multi religions, different languages, different cultures and different foods, but they are all together working for the common good.”
Prabhakar, also president of the Indian American Business Coalition, said, “We are living in peace. The media, with vested interests, are spreading vicious rumors of disharmony and hate among my own brothers and sisters especially those living in America. We are one. We don’t feel the religious separation…,” he said calling for the end of these bogus rumors of disunity.
Prabhakar, American Multi Ethnic Coalition Inc., (AMEC-USA), presented Medstar CEO Neal Patel with the 2023 Edward and Lily Prabhakar Centenary award for his leadership and giving spirit to underserved communities, including to West Side seniors, and an Englewood free food program.