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American Latvian Association

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The American Latvian Association (ALA) was founded on February 24, 1951. The ALA organization and its members lead and support global efforts to facilitate the peaceful and democratic development of Latvia by promoting understanding and support for Latvia through informational efforts in the USA. [1]

The ALA is one of many Latvian organizations that represent the Latvian American Community in the United States of America [2]. In 1961, the ALA participated as a co-founder of the Joint Baltic American National Committee [3] in cooperation with the Estonian American National Council [4] and the Lithuanian American National Council [5]. The ALA is also a member of the World Federation of Free Latvians (WFFL) [6] and contributes 4 of WFFL's 16 board members [7].

The American Latvian Association (ALA) is the main representative organization for the Latvian American community in the United States. ALA has over 160 member organizations, and some 6,000 individual members, representing over 100,000 people of Latvian descent living in the United States. ALA headquarters are based in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C[8].

Examples of the 160 ALA member organizations include Tilts [9], Washington DC Latvian Lutheran Church [10], and the Latvian Welfare Association, Inc.,DAUGAVAS VANAGI in New York [11].

The ALA is a 501(c)(3)non-profit, tax exempt educational and cultural organization registered as a private and voluntary organization with the U.S. Agency for International Development [12][13].

ALA is organized into 4 key program areas as is reported on the annual Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 [14] depicting the operations of non-profit organizations. The ALA supports cultural activities and facilitates cooperation within the Latvian American community. For example, ALA organizes educational and cultural travel to the Republic of Latvia every year. These programs help educate and inform the Latvian American Community about events and people in Latvia [15]. The goals of the ALA are to promote the study of Latvian language, history and culture. The ALA provides Latvian schools in the United States with books and teaching materials. The ALA also provides assistance to newly arrived immigrants with information about the USA and also provides humanitarian aid to people in Latvia [16].

History

ALA's complete history has been documented in two books, obtainable from ALA. The first book, "ALA 35, 1951-1986" was written by former ALA members Bruno Albats (former ALA General Secretary) and Visvaldis V. Klive (former President of the ALA) and was published in 1986. An updated history, entitled "ALA 1986-2000' was published in the 2000 and written by Anita Terauda (former ALA General Secretary) and Irene Karule.

The books provide an overview of the ALA and they address the founding of the ALA. As documented through the personal experiences of the authors the initiator of the concept of a unified voice for the Latvian American community was the Latvian ambassador to the USA, Julijis Feldmanis. On April 15, 1950, 79 representatives from the major Latvian centers, such as, New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, etc. met to address the initiative. The representatives decided: 1) to found a national Latvian organization; 2) to define the organization's overall goals; and 3) to develop the organization's basic structure. The representatives established an organizing committee to work out the organization's statutes and to call for a congress of delegates to formally found ALA.

Following the meeting in April 1950, Ambassador Feldmanis continued to work with the representatives of the major Latvian centers to create a unified Latvian organization. Numerous meetings were held in the various communities (most importantly, May 24, 1950 in Philadelphia and August 5, 1950 in New York) to gain local support and to work out the founding statutes. Mr. Feldmanis reiterated many times "that the main goal of the association will be the fight for Latvia's freedom."

115 delegates participated at the founding congress. They represented local Latvian organizations and churches in the USA with 11,260 members. Julijis Feldmanis was elected to lead the congress. On his recommendation that the statutes be accepted without change the delegates agreed and ALA was founded.

References

American Latvian Association Wikipedia


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