Paying Forward the American DreamPaying Forward the American Dream
LOUISE RATH: When you walk into CNY uniforms plus the looks aren’t very uniform.
TAI SHAW: We have a food pantry right there!
LOUISE: Tai Shaw’s storefront puts the essential and essential workers. But before his doors opened in 2010, he worked so many hours in real estate for a family he loved, but never saw.
TAI: My son’s young and I come home, he’s in bed. I leave, he’s still sleeping. So he never seen me. So I make a decision, I can find something that I can control.
LOUISE: Tai’s work in the store itself gave him more time with his children. But it’s what he started just outside the store that earned him the love and respect of the community.
NATURAL SOUND: God Bless You!
LOUISE: Five years ago, Tai and his children started setting up these pink boxes around the community filled with love.
TAI: We identify certain neighborhood that need them. We’ll put non perishable stuff in there.
LOUISE: Three years after founding the CNY blessing box, the COVID pandemic granted Tai’s uniform business essential worker status.
TAI: so you want something like this?
LOUISE: And when many doors were closing, Tai’s stayed open, offering him yet another way
TAI: Okay, sister!
LOUISE: to serve.
MATT EATEN: I mean, there’s not there’s not one person in Central New York, I don’t think that does a better job than Tai.
TAI: Thank you.
MATT: That’s not that’s not an exaggeration at all, so.
LOUISE: In the back of his store, nearly stacked to the ceiling, you’ll find a food pantry filled with cans, kindness, and a whole lot of hope. Dedicated to helping our newest Americans.
TAI: We have partnerships, we have volunteer, we have people who care, that make a huge difference. That give me more energy to do what I’ve continued doing.
LOUISE: And the community certainly recognizes his enthusiasm.
JOE WALKER: But it’s a there’s an energy level. He’s like a hummingbird on crack.
LOUISE: Every Wednesday, Tai opens up the parking lot of his storefront to serve hot food, and hope
TAI: we’re gonna have chili today!
LOUISE: to those in need.
TAI: Look at the people out there today. Look at them. All walks of life.
Hunger have no color! Remember that!
LOUISE: What uniquely positions Tai to serve these communities now, is his own background.
So part of why Tai is so good at serving these new Americans is because he once was one himself. In 1982, he was 10 years old, and he fled communist Vietnam in a split second decision. He hopped on a boat without the thing that makes it go… the motor. Six days later, his vessel was rescued by fishermen from Thailand and his journey to America began.
TAI: And I’m by myself, I’m just trying to survive. So… I haven’t seen my family and 40 years.
LOUISE: 40 years ago, Tai moved in with the Shaw family in a town just outside of Buffalo.
TAI: When I came to America, the Shaw gave me the opportunity to live my American dream. And I worked very hard because I don’t ever want to fail.
LOUISE While Tai has been lucky enough to see his American Dream blossom, he’s worked so hard to keep his feet firmly planted in his roots.
NATSOUND: He helps everybody in Syracuse!
LOUISE: And helping he is. Through his food pantry and his mentorship. Tai is the President of the Vietnamese community in Syracuse, and Vice President of the New American forum. But the thing is, Tai’s always known he was destined for this kind of service. The night before he was rescued at sea, he said a prayer, and made a vow should he survive his journey.
TAI: If I’m able, or if I made it alive, I will do everything to help other people.
That I will never go hungry again. And that’s exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing.
LOUISE: Four decades after leaving everything behind, Taifound passion, purpose.
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