How many potstickers, shu mai, wontons, bao, and bowls of ramen have you devoured in the past 14 months? If our Instagram feed is to be believed, some days it appears nothing but dumplings are being dished up in the Denver area. You’d think with Asian cuisines having a major moment, Asian Americans would be sharing the spotlight; instead, they’re increasingly victims of harassment and violence, including mass shootings.
That’s dispiriting data, but chefs Penelope Wong (owner of Yuan Wonton food truck), Caroline Glover (owner of Aurora’s Annette), and Carolyn Nugent (co-owner of Ulster Street Pastry in Denver) are aiming to support the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community with a fundraising campaign. For each donation of at least $25 to the trio’s Colorado for AAPI GoFundMe campaign, donors will be entered into weekly prize drawings in May and a grand prize drawing at the end of the month. There is no limit on the number of donations that can be made, and proceeds will be donated to the Asian American Foundation and AAPI Community Fund.
Penelope Wong, of the wildly popular Yuan Wonton, says, “This fundraiser has been an absolute catharsis for me to organize. The conversation all started with a simple gesture of [Caroline and Carolyn] asking me how I was doing with all of this. The floodgates opened and the conversation started rolling. If there’s anything chefs know how to do, it’s knowing how to get things done.”
racism, bullying, and mockery became the norm for me, and we were always raised with the notion of just ignoring it and moving on.Penelope Wong, Yuan Wonton
The group contacted local businesses, and in under 48 hours had garnered prize packages from over 30 local eateries, retailers, service providers, and musicians, including Yuan Wonton, Annette, Ulster Street Pastry, Pho King Rapidos, the Lumineers, Ginger Pig, Nathaniel Rateliff, Uncle, Daughter Thai, Hop Alley, and more.
Buoyed by Yuan Wonton’s rabid fan base (its Instagram page has nearly 23,000 followers), the fundraiser surpassed its initial goal of $10,000 in just four days; it’s since upped that goal to $20,000. (Interestingly—for money nerds, at least—just $4,261 of the $10,585 raised to date comes from donations of $100 or more. The vast majority of donations are $25 or $50.)
Yuan Wonton has also donated $2,500 to AAPI organizations since this March. “Growing up as an Asian American, I’ve always had to endure racism, bullying, and mockery,” Wong says. “It became the norm for me, and we were always raised with the notion of just ignoring it and moving on. As the attacks on the AAPI community have increased significantly over the last year since the start of the pandemic, with nearly 50% of reported incidences occurring in March of this year, it became a very emotionally challenging time for myself and for so many AAPI community members. It has been a silver lining to connect with many of our AAPI followers and friends of the food truck, and we’ve shared many similar stories of fear and anger. Hearing the shared stories of fear for one another and fear for our families, I knew I wanted to do something. I knew we had to.”
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