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QCC gets $250K grant for English programs

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When Thomas Chen left Taiwan for the United States in 1982, he did not speak a word of English. As a 27-year-old construction worker, Chen came to America seeking what he called “a better business opportunity.”

Twenty-one years later Chen has found more than an opportunity. He runs Crystal Windows & Door Systems, the College Point-based company with annual revenue of about $70 million.

With his company’s profits, Chen has decided to give back and help his fellow immigrants.

Last week Chen announced Crystal was giving $250,000 in scholarship money to an English-language program at Queensborough Community College in Bayside.

The gift was the largest donation for scholarships in the 43-year history of the college.

“I feel strongly that (Queensborough) lets people start the American dream, the American life,” Chen said.

The money goes to Queensboro­ugh’s Port of Entry program.

Port of Entry is designed for students who do not speak enough English to qualify for English as a second language programs. It provides intensive exposure to the English language at a cost of $1,000 per semester.

When Port of Entry was established in 1981, it was intended for Chinese immigrants. Since then the program has grown to accommodate newcomers from Korea, Israel, India and Latin America among other regions of the world, said Dr. Eduardo Marti, president of Queensborough. The program currently has about 140 students.

“It’s primarily for individuals who are recent arrivals, which is why it is so perfect that Mr. Chen provided funds, because he is a recent arrival,” Marti said.

After coming to the United States, Chen began working as a truck driver in the garment district in Manhattan. He became a superintendent of a Flushing apartment building and found himself often installing window guards and replacing windows.

In 1990, Chen started what would become Crystal Windows. He opened a 100,000-square-foot factory on Maple Avenue in Flushing, which in 2001 was replaced by the 165,000-square-foot facility off the Whitestone Expressway in College Point. Chen opened up an art gallery in the new facility last year.

Today Crystal is one of the largest producers of vinyl and aluminum windows in the country.

Many of the company’s employees are immigrants and enrolled in English-language programs at Queensborough, Chen said.

“I don’t use much money, me and my family,” Chen said. “I don’t feel I need much money. I like the money to go back to the business, to my own community.”

Chen’s donation will go toward Queensboro­ugh’s goal of establishing an endowment, Marti said. The college hopes to have a fund of $20 million and currently has about $2 million, Marti said.

The interest earned from the $250,000 will go to the scholarships. Next year the money will provide for two scholarships, Marti said. Eventually, the donation is expected to cover the cost of the program for as many as 12 students a year.

Marti, a native of Cuba, said he was “extremely grateful” for the gift.

“I was extremely touched by the fact that the first significant gift for scholarships came from a fellow immigrant.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.

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