ABIRC Team

July 10, 2018

Blong Xiong, MBA, Executive Director

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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.

Dao Lor, Program Manager

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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.

Overall, Dao enjoys sharing ideas and exploring new business avenues.

Carmen T. Mendoza, MSPH, MS, Project 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. On occasion, she teaches 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 primary contributions at ABIRC include organizational development, grant writing, program evaluation, and managing all incoming grants and projects. 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.

Lily Paj Nstais Her, Office Assistant

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Ms. Her serves as the Office Assistant at ABIRC. Born and raised in Fresno, California, she graduated from McLane High and is currently a full-time student at Fresno City College where she studies nursing. Within her first year of college, Lily worked as a paraprofessional, tutoring children ranging from the 1st to 6th grade. As a former tutor in poverty-stricken areas, she felt compelled and passionate about becoming a pediatric nurse. Lily wants to dedicate her life to helping and improving lives and disease outcomes.

Ms. Her takes on the role of the Office Assistant. She is the primary resource for developing and maintaining filing systems following the organization’s established procedures and protocols. As well, Lily has stepped into the role of bookkeeper. She also supports the organization by engaging and helping our Southeast Asian clients with technical assistance and consultation for the US Department of Agriculture grant. Lily was a key to the success of the Sweet Thai Chili release in conjunction with the Fresno Unified School District.

Ms. Her has a passion for giving back to others and leaving a positive mark on someone’s life daily. Her goal is to set a successful role model example for the Hmong community and the future generation.