The ABIRC Team
Blong Xiong, MBA – Executive Director
Mr. Xiong obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Marian College of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and later received a Master’s degree in Business Administration from National University. Before joining ABIRC, Blong served 2-terms as a Council Member for the City of Fresno, where he was the first elected Hmong Council Member in the State of California and the first Asian Council Member in the City of Fresno. He also served as a Public Defender Investigator for the County of Fresno and as Deputy Director for The Fresno Center (formerly known as Fresno Center for New Americans) for over a decade. Blong’s leadership experience extends to diverse organizations in Fresno County and the U.S. where his passion has led him to assist, advocate for and represent many underserved populations including immigrants, refugees, New Americans, small business owners, and farmers. Throughout his professional career, he has served on several statewide commissions, the Asian Pacific Islander Commission and the California Volunteer Commission appointed by former Governor Schwarzenegger. As part of the community, Blong is also very active in issues that span education, economic development, health, and equitable access to resources. On a personal note, Blong has shaped his family’s small business and has a keen understanding of the struggles of small business owners.
Mr. Xiong served as a Board Member for ABIRC prior to becoming its Executive Director in July 2018. As soon as he took the helm, he recruited the current Board members and found funding for Board training. Blong worked with ABIRC’s Board members to bring in the largest grant to date from the Department of Water Resources. After growing the agency’s staff members and launching the first Hmong Leadership Cohort, grants were obtained from the US Department of Agriculture, State of California Go-Biz and Fresno County 2020 Census to provide technical assistance to small SEA farmers and businesses, and to ensure that the SEA community is represented/counted in the decennial census. Blong secured additional funding in the form of corporate sponsorships from community partners includes the Chevron, City of Fresno, Comcast, Fresno County, Fresno Unified School District, PG&E, PacWest Bank, and Valley Small Business Development Corporation. He has worked closely with local community partners that serve the SEA/Hmong community, including The Fresno Center, Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries, Lao Veterans of America, Inc., Special Guerrilla Unit, UC Cooperative Extension, Hmong Clan leadership, ethnic media (Hmong USA TV, Hmong Radio, Hmong Network). to advance ABIRC’s mission
As a spokesperson/community leader for the SEA community, Blong works closely with local, state, and federal officials regarding the SEA community’s need for services/dollars. He has also established strong relationships and community partners with African American, Latino and Punjabi communities, in addition to other ethnic minority groups in the local area.
In his spare time, Blong teaches business courses at Phoenix University and Fresno City College. He also enjoys traveling with his wife, taking care of his dog and playing golf.
Carmen T. Mendoza, MSPH, MS – Deputy Director
Mrs. Mendoza received her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from California State University at Hayward, a Master of Science in Public Health degree from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Public Health (UCLA), and a Master of Science degree in Epidemiology from the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine (UW). Carmen has served as a Research Fellow for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and spearheaded major research projects at UCLA, UW and UC Davis. Since 2001, Carmen has served as a consultant to numerous non-profit organizations, county health departments in the Central Valley, and Fresno State. She occasionally teaches Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods at Fresno State.
Before Carmen arrived in Fresno, she read extensively about Hmong refugees and their culture. Interestingly, there were many similarities with her own culture. Shortly after her arrival, she worked with Fresno Center for New Americans developing grant proposals that would launch their successful mental health and employment programs. She also worked to identify employment barriers the Hmong encountered in the first and second waves of resettlement during her work with the California Works for Better Health Collaborative. Her knowledge about other Southeast Asian populations and their concerns grew across the years as she worked with non-profit organizations in the Valley. ABIRC was a natural fit for continuing to assist Southeast Asians. Her many contributions at ABIRC include organizational development, grant writing, program evaluation, managing all incoming grants and projects, and building networks for local food promotion. Carmen is also charged with building external relations with county, state and national organizations to advance ABIRC’s mission and assist the Southeast Asian business community.
On a personal basis, Carmen enjoys spending time with her family and dogs, running, bible studies, mentoring students, and traveling.
Dao Lor, BA – Program Manager
Post the Vietnam War, Mr. Lor’s parents fled to Thailand from the jungle of Laos to escape genocide from the communist regime. Lor was born in a refugee camp called Banh Vinai. Shortly after, his family was given permission to immigrate to the United States and they settled in Fresno, California. Growing up in a low-income and farming family, Dao had a total of four siblings – two brothers and two sisters, making him the middle child and middle son. He studied psychology and business at California State University, Fresno and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2017. Dao’s former work experience includes flipping burgers, mentoring students, car sales, managing a security firm, and operating his family farm and farmer’s market stand. It is his direct experience as a farmer that makes him a prime candidate for his position at ABIRC.
Currently, Dao is serving as the Program Manager for the Asian Business Institute and Resource Center. His duties include creating a strong network of Southeast Asian small business owners and farmers, working with the North Kings Groundwater Sustainable Agency on bridging the information gap that affects Southeast Asian farmers through outreach and engaging in advocacy efforts. One-on-one, Dao provides technical assistance to small business owners and farmers through consultation and direct assistance with business plans and filing paperwork for business licenses. He also assists our teams with census-related activities and building sales venues for SEA crops.
Overall, Dao enjoys sharing ideas and exploring new business avenues.
Keng Vang, BA – Crop Distribution Manager
Mr. Vang graduated from California State University, Fresno in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and a minor in Hmong. He co-founded the Hmong Language Club at Fresno State. His strong dominance of the Hmong language allowed him to earn a Certificate in Hmong Medical Interpreting from the Clovis Community College (Herndon Campus) and to work for Global Accents Translation Services as a Hmong Translator. Keng’s work as an Archaeologist with the USDA Forest Service at four National Forests across two states provided him the experience of identifying, documenting and evaluating heritage and cultural resources. Prior to working with ABIRC as a temporary employee beginning April 2020, he was employed by two of the major Southeast Asian farming serving groups in the Central Valley, the National Hmong American Farmers, Inc. and the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension.
Keng comes from a family with extensive experience in farming and is familiar with many farmers in the Central Valley. As our Program Assistant for the CDFA and census grants, Keng assists ABIRC by contacting Southeast Asian micro farmers to advise them of direct and technical assistance opportunities ABIRC offers to promote their produce through the COVID-19 pandemic. He is directly involved with helping micro farmers to fill out applications for crisis relief efforts and conducting the intake assessments that allow ABIRC to identify farmers who are desirous of participating in a pilot project for crop distribution to CSAs in the East Bay. As he contacts farmers about their crops and talks with them, he gains a deep understanding of the effect of the pandemic beyond the farm.
On his days off, Keng enjoys hiking, cooking Hmong food, traveling, hunting, and fishing.
Shang Her – Business Specialist
Ms. Her will be graduating from the University of California, Davis, in December of 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian American Studies and Theatre. Her plans after graduation will be to continue giving back to the community that raised her.
Shang comes from a large family of fourteen. Her family immigrated from Thailand to the United States in 1995. Leaving everything behind and arriving with the clothes on their backs, her parents resorted to what they knew best, farming. Shang’s family has been farming for over 20 years. Growing up in a farming family, Shang knows the hard work that goes into farming. Joining ABIRC, she plans to help the Hmong farmers with their farming business. For the first three months, Shang will be working on conducting assessments on the impact of COVID-19 on Southeast Asian businesses in the City of Fresno.
During her off time, Shang enjoys photography, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
Areanna Alvarez – Bookkeeper