(Contributed by Daniel George, Varghese George & Philip Thomas)
Malayalee families seeking professional opportunities started to move in to the Augusta area in the 1970s. From the very beginning, our Augusta Malayalee community had a very friendly cohesion and camaraderie. In the early years, our families used to informally gather at residences to celebrate Onam and Christmas. As the community grew over the years, the desire among the families to have a more organized approach to celebrate our traditions and culture started to crystalize, resulting in the formation of “the Augusta Kerala Association” in 1984. Under that banner, our group started having semiformal celebrations of cultural events such as Onam and Christmas, organized by annually-elected committees. During the early years, we used various local venues for our cultural programs. Starting from December 2010, AMAA has been using the Jabez Hardin Auditorium in the Columbia County Library complex for our annual main events – Onam and Christmas celebrations. Typically, we also have an annual Picnic in the early summer, and occasional movie nights.
As more families moved in and the membership increased, the members collectively felt the need for getting the nonprofit status with the State of Georgia. That effort culminated in 2007 with the formation of the Augusta Malayalee Association, Inc. (AMAA), registered in the State of Georgia. In the same year, our application for tax-exempt nonprofit status was also approved.
We had a few highly memorable events organized by our community over the years. In 2001, our community was very fortunate to enjoy a wonderful trio-performance at the Paine College by three all-time greatest satirists of Malayalam Literature – Chemmanam Chacko, Sukumaran Potti and Veloor Krishnan Kutty. In 2008, we had an enchanting evening of Carnatic music concert by Fr. Dr. Paul Poovathingal (Padum Pathiri) and his orchestra at the Hardin Auditorium, sponsored by Asian Choice. In 2011, AMAA hosted a formal reception at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion to honor the Late Captain Raju, one of the legendary South Indian Film Artists and a civic leader. Thanks to Drs. Philip and Marykutty Thomas, we were fortunate to have Malayalam classes for our children from 1990 till 2018.
AMAA has always been involved in charitable activities such Food Drive, Soup Kitchen and other cause-specific fundraising efforts. Our youth members have also been actively participating in these efforts. In 2018, AMAA donated $15,000 to the Chief Minister’s Fund for the Kerala Flood Relief, which included $580 raised by our youth by organizing a car wash. Inspired by this great effort, the 2019 AMAA Executive Committee decided to make charitable and community outreach activities and fundraising for those activities a formal and integral part of AMAA. To that end, we started a dedicated savings account for charity. In 2019, AMAA assisted 20 families in Northern Kerala, devastated by flood and landslides. We also bought bicycles for all 18 students in an elementary school in the tribal area near Kalpetta. Local activities of AMAA included volunteer and financial support to the Master’s Table Soup Kitchen and a Collection Drive to benefit SafeHomes Domestic Violence Center. Our youth continued to be proactive, again raising $600 for charity through their car wash project.