County honors Chaldean group at business awards

By: Eric Czarnik, Kristyne E. Demske | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 25, 2015

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A nonprofit devoted in part to helping Iraqi and Chaldean immigrants adjust to life in the United States was recently honored as a model organization in Macomb County.

The Chaldean Community Foundation was named one of six recipients of the Macomb County Business Awards, which were announced Feb. 10 at Cherry Creek Golf Club in Shelby Township.

Maria Zardis, manager of communications and marketing for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, said the department hosts the top business awards each year in conjunction with the County Executive Office to celebrate businesses in Macomb County.

“Our mission is to build business in the county while making the community a better place to live, work and play,” Zardis said. “So, of course we want to celebrate the businesses that are doing it.”

Fifty-four nominations in six categories were sent to the county at the end of last year, and an independent panel of judges narrowed the businesses down to the top three in each category, Zardis said. The categories are champion of workforce development, corporate citizen, diversification leader, energy efficiency expert, startup business of the year and model of OneMacomb.

The Chaldean Community Foundation, based in Sterling Heights and Bingham Farms, earned the Model of OneMacomb Award.

According to a press release, the foundation was honored for “advancing the needs of the Chaldean-American community through education, charitable giving and advocacy.”

Chaldean Community Foundation President Martin Manna said it was an honor to receive the award, and the group is thankful for it.

“It’s a testament to the work that our staff has been doing — that everyone who walks through our office, through our doors, is treated with the utmost care and the highest level of service,” he said.

He said Chaldeans mainly come from Iraq and Syria. Their historical faith tradition has been Catholic, and their historical language is Aramaic.

“They have a history spanning some 5,500 years,” he said.

The foundation offers assistance to all ethnicities, and he said more than 15 percent of the people who seek the foundation’s help are non-Chaldean. But he said the foundation’s services help Chaldean refugees and immigrants through financial, medical, educational and legal assistance.

The recent rise of the Islamic State and the fighting in Syria and Iraq have displaced more than one million people throughout the Middle East, and 400-plus immigrants from the region are arriving to Michigan every month, he said.

Manna said the foundation’s mission is to put its clients on the road to becoming independent of government subsidies.  He said while some people unfairly stereotype Macomb County as being unwelcoming, it has been wonderful to the Iraqi and Chaldean communities.

The foundation is currently in the process of moving its headquarters to an expanded building a short distance away within Sterling Heights. The building is supposed to open in the second half of 2015 and is supposed to have more space for expanded services, Manna said.

The other 2015 Macomb County Business Awards winners were PTI Engineered Plastics in Macomb Township, First State Bank in St. Clair Shores, Coliant Corp. in Warren, Shelby Foam Systems of Shelby Township and SkyBlade Fan Co. in Warren.

Learn more about the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce by visiting www.chaldeanfoundation.org or by calling (586) 722-7253.

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