When former Eau Claire City Councilman Joe Bee Xiong passed away three years ago, his business, Joe Bee Enterprises was only 3-weeks old. So, his son Lar Zeng Xiong helped to manage the company that assembles parts for medical and military products, and trained to become a community leader.
“I know I have big shoes to fill to get to where my dad was,” he said. “It's just something that you pick up from your parents."
Lar Zeng and eight others graduated from the 2008 program. He says it helped them connect with business and government leaders, and become more confident public speakers.
Organizers say they started it after finding a leadership gap since first-generation Hmong immigrants had stepped up and filled leadership roles in the community."
“We found they were getting older. They were over-burdened with roles and responsibilities,” said Julie Keown-Bomar of Eau Claire County’s UW Extension office.
So they took an outline from a Hmong leadership program in Wausau and adapted it to the needs of Eau Claire's Hmong community. The goal is to help the group get more involved with their community at large.
It inspired Lar Zeng to take a leadership position with Habitat for Humanity.
“I think I picked up a few good things from that to benefit me and my business,” he said.
Some of the graduates put on the annual Hmong Fest event that helps the community become more familiar with their culture.
The program is also helping Lar Zeng carry on his father's legacy.
“We will do our best to do what he did,” he said.
He’s getting that done by keeping the business viable, and serving the community like his father.
A grant from UW Extension funds part of the program. It costs each participant $25.
The application deadline is October 21. You can find a link to the application below.