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Asian center is a work in progress

It has been about 18 months since the Asian center moved into a rambling old clubhouse at 2201 First Ave. N.

Work continues on both refitting the building and expanding programs, said Bun Hap Prak, the center's executive director.

Prak's organization, formally known as the Asian Family and Community Empowerment Center, bought the building from the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society in June 1999.

The center helps about 4,000 people of Asian descent. It offers numerous social services, including job counseling and housing assistance, and has a youth program that, among other things, has offered tutoring to younger children.

About 60 youngsters take part in the youth program. The girls' section is trying to raise money for such things as pencils, paper and other supplies, snacks and field trips.

A few weeks ago, a painting and cleanup project spruced up the center's outside.

But that's a small part of an ongoing project, Prak said.

Permits are in the pipeline for fire exit doors and fire escapes, and other renovations are planned as financing permits: a sprinkling system outside, hedges, a paved parking lot and an updated wiring system, for example. In addition, the 20-year-old roof needs to be replaced.

When the refurbishing is further along, Prak hopes to start an elderly services program to provide meals, medical help, translation services and transportation.

"I have a laundry list," Prak said.

For information about Asian center programs, call 321-8887.