By Ren Clayton

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Hmong Cultural Center in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood has made quite the comeback. The museum was vandalized just a week before it was set to unveil a major expansion in September.

“We got so mad about it,” said Txong Pao Lee, the center’s executive director.

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But the community stepped up. Individual and corporate donations totaled $30,000.

“Very heartwarming community response after that incident,” said Dr. Mark Pfeifer, the center’s director of programs.

What used to be just one packed upstairs level has now added a spacious downstairs area, outfitted with secure windows and security cameras.

“Our capacity just greatly expanded, and now we can really rev up, especially those school group tours,” Pfeifer said.

(credit: CBS)

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There are many more learning tools and displays in this newest iteration of the center that’s unique worldwide.

“Hmong from Laos, from Vietnam, from Thailand, and from France, from Australia, they come here. We have many people that walk in,” Lee said.

With a more robust facility, a bigger goal has been set.

“Being a cultural institution embedded within the Frogtown and Little Mekong areas of St. Paul,” Pfeifer said.

And having an impact beyond their new walls.

“It’s not just … only for Hmong community, but for other people who don’t know who’s the Hmong,” Lee said.

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The center re-opened in December, while still doing some construction. They plan to take the boards off the windows for the first time this Monday.

Ren Clayton