In the heart of the Golden State, Marina Schwabic, a Serbian lawyer and Harvard Kennedy School of Government graduate has been looking to organize the Serbian Diaspora. For over five years, the A.S.A.P. Foundation she started has been serving as a central point for the Serbian community in the United States, with a primary focus on the sun-kissed shores of California.
As The Balkan Voice of The Pavlovic Today sat down with Marina Schwabic for an interview, we gained insight into her philanthropic journey. This conversation comes just in time for a gala event scheduled for November 4, 2023, where the Serbian NBA Hall of Famer, Vlade Divac, is set to take the stage as the keynote speaker.
The Balkan Voice: What can attendees expect at the upcoming gala in LA on November 4th? Are there any special guests or performances planned for the evening?
Marina Schwabic: Celebrating A.S.A.P. 5th anniversary, our upcoming Serbian Benefit Gala will be held at the iconic Four Seasons Hotel Ballroom in Beverly Hills on November 4th. This event is a significant milestone in our mission to bond with the Serbian philanthropic elite in California, based on by my previous chairing of the Tesla Spirit Awards Galas and inspired by the Serbian Philanthropic Gala – events taking place for the last 4 years in New York City.
Our gala will feature a rich program of Serbian musical talents, including pop icon Ana Stanic from Belgrade, a classical ensemble led by Maja Rajcic, award-winning African-American film producer and musician Ron Holsey, who will perform Serbian folk songs with classically trained singer Milena Gligic. A local rock band from Chicago and a children’s folklore performance will also be part of the lineup, with Serbian actress Ana Alexander as host. The evening will include a surprise keynote speaker, awards, and moments of community inspiration, culminating with a 3-course dinner and an open bar within the luxurious surroundings of the Four Seasons Ballroom.
The Balkan Voice: What are your primary objectives and goals for this gala, and how do you hope it will benefit the Serbian-American community?
Marina Schwabic: Our primary goal is to start at the grassroots level. Fundraising events of this caliber is a novelty for our community in Los Angeles and Orange County, where most of our California Serbs reside. We aspire to gradually educate the new generations about the significance of community service and giving back – but this is a long road. So, our approach is best described as a marathon, not a sprint.
Over the past five years, we’ve successfully cultivated various assemblies and gatherings, consistently delivering high-quality social and cultural events that span across generations, with most being free of charge. The Serbian Benefit Gala, however, requires a financial commitment, with a portion of the proceeds directed toward Serbian charitable causes. We have to thank several big donors led by the generous Mr. Zoran Djordjevic, a veterinarian doctor from Carlsbad, CA. The silent auction featuring exclusive items from prominent athletes like NBA Player Bogdan Bogdanovic, head of the Serbian Basketball team currently a Vice Champion of the World and the socker star player from LA Galaxy team, Dejan Joveljic artifacts from the Classic Art Gallery, is anticipated to draw in donors and significantly contribute to our cause.
The Balkan Voice: Can you tell us about the response you’ve received from the community or potential attendees about the gala, and where interested individuals can buy tickets or find more information?
Marina Schwabic: The feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive, with one notable consideration: the ticket prices. After the Early Bird phase concludes, ticket prices may be a barrier for some. Our goal is to uphold the highest standards of quality, hence our choice of the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel Ballroom in Beverly Hills. However, producing such a grand event comes with substantial costs, resulting in higher ticket prices, which may be uncustomary for the Serbian community.
Therefore, for this event we are focusing on a segment of our population that has disposable income, including entrepreneurs, athletes, producers/directors, executives, doctors, lawyers, and academics. It’s important to note that other events produced by ASAP are more accessible to the wider community, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate. With just 10 days left until the event, only a few tickets remain, and we are aiming for a full house of approximately 100 guests. Tickets can be purchased, and more information about us can be found at [link], or explore last-minute sponsorship opportunities.
The Balkan Voice: For Serbian Americans or others interested in supporting your organization, how can they get involved? Are there opportunities for volunteering, making donations, or other forms of support?
Marina Schwabic: Our nonprofit organization offers limitless opportunities for individuals to engage, whether through financial contributions, volunteering their time, or assuming ambassadorial roles. Interested individuals can reach us directly by email.
The Balkan Voice: Since its inception, how has the American Serbian Association for Prosperity evolved or grown, and what key milestones or achievements have been reached along the way?
Marina Schwabic: The origins of ASAP trace back to 1999 when a group of Serbs in Los Angeles organized peaceful demonstrations in response to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
Over the years, we have diligently worked to cultivate a new generation of proud Serbs or Americans of Serbian ancestry, aspiring to enjoy recognition akin to other robust communities in the US, including our Armenian, Greek, Jewish, and other counterparts. Our mission centers on safeguarding our culture, religion, and vision for the benefit of future generations – but also purposefully building an new image that my people deserve after being unjustly and biasedly condemned for decades in the American media.
This revitalization of our Serbian identity served as the catalyst for the inception of Vidovdan Horizon 2050 – a original think tank platform that poses a pivotal question: Why does the Serbian Diaspora matter? Vidovdan, a significant date in our history, is now also the official Day of Serbian Diaspora, symbolically standing as a celebration of the lives and accomplishments of the 3 million or more Serbs residing beyond the borders of our motherland, all of whom we seek to unite in a common vision of unity, solidarity, and impactful change.
The Balkan Voice: What role do you believe your organization plays in helping individuals in the Serbian-American community pursue their version of the American dream?
Marina Schwabic: We look to transcend the confines of the folk concerts and old-style Serb Fests as we tend to bring a higher purpose and prominent style to our gathering . Mobilization and organization represent labor-intensive and resource-demanding endeavors. Apart from a handful of fundraisers that are necessary for our organization’s economic survival, our community events are at low or no cost, designed to make them accessible to anyone within our community. Our involvement has effectively informed our public about the power of unity, community, and now we are gradually introducing the value of philanthropy.
The Balkan Voice: What does the American dream mean to you, and how has your involvement with the organization shaped your perspective on this concept?
Marina Schwabic: American Dream signifies the chance to prosper while maintaining a deep connection to one’s roots and heritage. My work with A.S.A.P. highlights the Serbian-American community’s potential to achieve our own American dream, uniting and safeguarding our culture and values while making meaningful contributions to society. This organization has given me the opportunity to be part of this vision, strengthening my conviction in the transformative power of collaboration, unity, and prosperity. “Samo sloga Srbina spašava!”
Tickets for ASAP gala on November 4th, 2023 can be purchased here.
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