Pledging 1,975 Meals And More To Mark 45 Years Since Refugees First Arrived In U.S. April 30,1975

Vietnamese Americans across the U.S. will join forces this Thursday, April 30 to deliver food and supplies for healthcare workers and others fighting COVID-19

 WESTMINSTER, Calif. – Vietnamese Americans in Orange County’s Little Saigon today issued a challenge to other Vietnamese communities throughout the country: Join in for a national day of giving back on Thursday, April 30, to help healthcare workers and others on the front lines of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

So far, Vietnamese communities in New York City, Boston, Toronto, Northern Virginia, Orlando, Dallas, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and other areas have accepted that call to action with plans for donation efforts of 1,975 meals and personal protective equipment (PPE). The number of 1975 represents the year that “boat people” first began arriving from war-torn Vietnam.

Earlier this month, the volunteer team of “Nailing It For Health Care Workers” collected and delivered more than 120,000 medical-grade masks and 300,000 gloves in donations within 10 days for healthcare professionals throughout Southern California combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. Dozens of Vietnamese restaurants also have joined the cause, delivering more than 20,000 meals to help healthcare professionals and others last week. The team also raised more than $150,000 last week to continue supporting the volunteer effort.

When the pandemic first began spreading across the country, nail salon owners and their suppliers were anxious. After the shutdown of nonessential businesses across the U.S., beauty school owner Tam Nguyen and others mobilized the industry to donate a total of more than 1.2 million medical-grade masks, gloves and other PPEs to front-line workers at hospitals in nearly every state. The group estimates the current market value of those mostly American-made PPEs is approximately $30 million.

Now, Nguyen and other former refugees from Vietnam are asking other Vietnamese across the country to dig even deeper this Thursday and give back despite the necessary stay-at-home orders that have nearly decimated their livelihoods as workers and owners in nail salons, restaurants and other small businesses. The new volunteer effort is called “Nailing It For America.”

Tam Nguyen hopes the effort will be a meaningful way for Vietnamese-Americans to commemorate their origins in this country.

Nguyen himself was just a toddler when he came to the U.S. with his family. As an adult, he completed coursework to become a medical doctor but then was lured back to his family’s successful 33-year business, Advance Beauty College. The school provided training to tens of thousands of people who were once mostly struggling newcomers like his own family back in 1975. Graduates would go on to secure good-paying jobs as nail techs, and many would later become business owners themselves in the nail-care industry.

Nguyen recalls that Vietnamese Americans transformed the nail industry, thanks to Hollywood legend Tippi Hendren’s visit to the Hope Village refugee camp in Northern California in 1975. Concerned by the refugees’ need for employment, the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” flew her own personal manicurist to teach a small group of refugees the nail craft and even helped them secure nail salon jobs in Southern California.

Thursday marks a significant milestone for the nation’s 2.1 million Americans of Vietnamese descent since the first wave of refugees reached America on April 30, 1975.

“Thursday is a special day to show our gratitude to America and to countless Americans like Tippi Hendren who embraced us and gave us a chance to rebuild our lives after the Fall of Saigon,” Nguyen said. “It’s also a day for the rise of the Vietnamese community in America to help front-line workers conquer COVID-19.”

Along with Tam Nguyen, the other founding organizers are:
Christie Nguyen, owner of Studio 18 Nail Bar in Tustin, Calif.
Ha Duong, president of Beeyond Capital of Fountain Valley, Calif.
Johnny Ngo, president of Whale Spa and Skyline Beauty Supplies in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Ted Nguyen, senior manager at Orange County Transportation Authority in Orange, Calif.