Thursday, November 08, 2007

"I am not a saint" : a feisty philanthropist has fallen

Noi Chudnoff died suddenly yesterday after a freakish accident. She was an extraordinary person. She came to the US from Thailand in the 1960s at age 17, and started off scrubbing floors in a nursing home. After attending college, getting married, and raising a son, she decided to take off her apron and start a business. This turned out to be the famous Go Mama Go store on 14th Street here in Washington, DC. She was a succesful business woman and a feisty philanthropist.

Noi funnelled most of her profits to the gay and lesbian communities, Concerned Black Men of America, a local HIV/AIDS clinic, and other groups that were disdvantaged or discriminated against.

No one pulled for the underdog around here more than Noi. She was an inspiration and will be missed.

Read about what some of her fans say about her here.

Read about her life here. Excerpt:

''She knows virtually everyone who comes into her store. She has no hesitancy about asking anyone to help,'' says Matt Foreman, executive director of the Task Force, for whom Chudnoff harbors particular admiration. While her profits have in large part translated to donations to Whitman-Walker Clinic, Concerned Black Men, the N Street Village women's shelter, and the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, among others, Chudnoff has pledged $100,000 to the Task Force. ''I've met with a lot of donors over the years,'' says Foreman, ''and it's an exceptional day when a donor offers to give money before you ask.''

Despite her philanthropy, Chudnoff is the first to insist -- repeatedly -- ''I am not a saint.'' Spend some time with her, and you'll likely agree. After all, she's not one to mince words. She can be demanding. Don't let her slight frame fool you -- she does not suffer fools