Von Tran, Founder and CEO of First Senior Center (FSC), has hidden herself from the “limelight” of Gwinnett County’s news and advertisements. Instead, Tran lets her hard work and successes speak for itself as she built her business from the ground up.
Von Tran and her family escaped Vietnam when she was 9 years old beneath the cover of nets in the bottom of a fishing boat. She spent a year and a half in refugee camps in Malaysia and the Philippines before arriving in Dallas, Texas and becoming a sponsored student at an all-girls Catholic school. Upon graduating from Trinity University with a Bachelor of Science, she moved to Atlanta in 1998. Her original career plan was to enter the medical field but instead began a career in real estate by flipping houses before transitioning into commercial real estate.
As her career flourished, Tran began to observe the generational disconnect between the elderly Vietnamese neighbors and their families and caregivers. Understanding the important nuances of Vietnamese culture, Tran fostered her love of service and decided to embark on her next adventure, opening the First Senior Center in 2017.
“I had always heard; you spend the first 50 years of your life on yourself – doing what you can to get yourself stable. The second 50 years is to serve others and make a difference, and I have the burning desire to do so. I am just trying to meet the needs of my community,” Tran said.
The First Senior Center is a mecca of community care. Beginning as a senior daycare center, the operation grew to create a transportation leg – bringing in the daycare members every day directly from home, delivering meals and providing at-home nursing services. When the pandemic struck, FSC expanded to include telehealth communications with their patients and members and has operated limited in-person activities since then. Full-time, in-person operations will begin again on November 1 – a date that the staff and their 250 members excitedly anticipate.
On July 15, FSC expanded to a new location in Norcross, Georgia. The enormous, 26,000-square foot facility includes unique amenities such as an in-house movie theater with reclining massage chairs, a craft room, hair salon and spa, performance stage, and even an acupuncturist and chiropractor – covered entirely by Medicaid.
FSC is also home to Atlanta’s second-largest food pantry, which Tran and her sister launched in 2021. FSC’s food pantry distributes approximately 30,000 lbs. of food to nearly 3,200 families weekly. The two felt it was a necessary addition to their community service operation, as their family once relied on food banks when they first moved to the U.S.
“We came here as immigrants. For 10 years, we went to the Catholic church’s food pantry every Sunday and we lived in Section-8 housing projects. Now that we are stable, you’d think we would want to live the ‘good life,’ go on vacations, show off on Facebook, buy nice purses – thinking selfishly,” said Tran. “But I haven’t forgotten where I came from. I remember every single moment.”
Though FSC’s daycare is Vietnamese-focused, their at-home nursing and food pantry services are available to all members of the community no matter ethnicity. Tran understands the needs of the elderly community and has a tireless desire to do more. She plans to expand the daycare services to the local Latina community during the weekends.
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