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New president hopes to revive McLean County India Association after it went dormant during COVID

Shweta Sawant
Ryan Denham
Shweta Sawant was appointed the new McLean County India Association (MCIA) president in December. The MCIA advisors’ board has tasked her with rebuilding membership and restarting programming.

The new president of the McLean County India Association wants to bring the group back to life after nearly three years of dormancy due to COVID.

Shweta Sawant was appointed the new MCIA president in December. The MCIA Advisors’ Board has tasked her with rebuilding membership and restarting programming.

“It’s a big challenge,” Sawant said. “Now, to go back to them and let people know, yes, we’re coming back together. We need to assure people that there’s going to be a lot of activities, gatherings, and other interesting stuff. We want to bring it back.”

Increasing memberships will be a top priority. There was no membership drive during the COVID years. And the MCIA has a lot of potential members: Asian Indians are one of the biggest communities of color in McLean County, with more than 5,000 people.

The first event under Sawant’s leadership will be India Republic Day festivities on Jan. 26 at Heartland Community College in Normal, with plans for a kids’ fashion show, songs and dance, and other activities.

“We want to make this a little bit bigger of an event,” Sawant said. “We want to come back with a boom.”

For the Indian community, these events “keep us combined, keep us intact,” she said.

“Personally, I missed a lot (during the COVID years). My daughter, who is 9, missed a lot of activities, too. It was a big impact,” said Sawant, who previously worked in HR, and is now a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway.

She and her husband moved to Bloomington-Normal about eight years ago and have put down roots.

“From New Jersey to Bloomington was a big change for me," she said. "When I first saw the town, I was a little skeptical — until I started living here. Within six months, we were in love with the Twin Cities. We have everything here. We have good education. Parks. A helpful community, I would say.”

The MCIA’s Advisors Board spent the second half of 2022 discussing different ways to get the organization going again. Ultimately, they turned to Sawant.

“When MCIA approached me about becoming the president, I liked the idea because, being in the community, being involved … I just love people. I love talking to them and being around them. I think I’m up to the challenge, and I’m trying my level best to get it back,” Sawant told WGLT.

You can contact MCIA on its Facebook Page.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.