The Lebanese American Foundation, Inc. was dreamt into existence in September 1999. With much support from Lebanese in Los Angeles, a non-profit foundation was established with the name of House of Lebanon, and Dr. Hanna Shammas was elected as chairman of the board and president.
The bylaws were drafted, and through the diligent work of Mr. Jack Chammas, Esq., the foundation received its 501 (c) (3) status from the Internal Revenue Service on April 10, 2000.
The first youth meeting, Return to our Roots, was held at UCLA on October 27, 2000, featuring the Lebanese American star, Mr. Casey Kasem, and was attended by over 250 persons. Other Return to our Roots meetings followed and the movement ultimately inspired the formation of the Young Professional Group.
The first gala event was held on November 19, 2000 at the Waterfront Hilton Hotel in Huntington Beach, CA. This first gala dinner had a dual purpose, to fundraise for the House of Lebanon and to celebrate the Lebanese Independence Day.
2002: Dr. Irani's endorsement of the House of Lebanon project was undoubtedly a major pivotal step. His involvement was cemented by generous donations, not only from Dr. Irani, but also from Dr. Joe Jacobs, Mr. George Hage and from Ambassador Gilbert Chagoury. The generous donors were elected Honorary Board members, and Dr. Irani became the Honorary Chairman.
New officers are elected. On February 4, 2004, Mr. Kanan Hamzeh was elected President and Dr. Hanna Shammas remained Chairman of the Board. For the ensuing 5 years, everyone worked diligently, hand in hand with dedicated board members, chief financial officer, Mr. Rachid Eletel and legal advisor, Mr. Jack Chammas, to solidify the Foundation's basis.
The Artists' Group was started in 2006 by Mrs. Carole Choucair Oueijan. The group started with 7 members and quickly grew to include over 70 visual artists, performers, composers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and writers. The group put together the very successful Beyond Borders Art Exhibition, an annual event that aims to celebrate the wealth of artistic talent within the American Lebanese, Middle Eastern and American communities.
Executive Director is appointed. Mrs. Karen Srour was appointed Executive Director on September 17, 2007, and the Lebanese American Foundation established an office in Century City. The office was later moved to Studio City. Under Mrs. Karen Srour's direction, the office became responsible for the day to day operations of the organization, including the Pride of Heritage Banquet, annual picnic, golf tournament, art exhibitions and social dinner details.
The First Lebanese American Foundation Golf Classic was put on. The First Lebanese American Foundation Golf Classic was held at the Braemar Country Club on Monday, May 12, 2008, and was chaired by Mr. Fouad El-Abd. A total of 86 golfers participated in the tournament that was followed by a lavish dinner, silent auction and entertainment. The second tournament was also held at Braemar Country Club in 2009.
The bylaws were amended on January 20, 2009 with the establishment of the Board of Trustees, and Dr. Ray Irani was voted chairman of this new Board. The Board of Trustees is entrusted with the mission to safeguard the structure and the mission of our Foundation.
On January 27, 2010, the Honorable Judge James Kaddo was voted Chairman of the Board, and Mr. Mike Ahmar as President. Mr. Ahmar re-energized the real estate committee and the search for properties intensified.
The visit to the property located at 4800 Wilshire Boulevard left the members in awe. There was a unanimous approval after it was presented at the board meeting, and Mr. Ahmar started negotiations. A favorable deal was agreed upon, and with a financial boost from Dr. and Mrs. Ray Irani, Mr. and Mrs. Vatche Manoukian, and many Board members, escrow on the sale was closed on June 5, 2012.
On May 28, 2013 the House of Lebanon moved from the Studio City office to 4800 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. This property has been designated as the House of Lebanon, the first Lebanese American Cultural Center in the United States of America.