Handmade Holiday Cards Lift Spirits of Little Tokyo Towers Senior Residents - Little Tokyo Service Center

Handmade Holiday Cards Lift Spirits of Little Tokyo Towers Senior Residents

Handmade Holiday Cards Lift Spirits of Little Tokyo Towers Senior Residents


Fourth grade students at Emma W. Shuey Elementary School in Rosemead, CA spread holiday cheer to the senior residents of Little Tokyo Towers (LTT) this year with handmade cards. LTSC volunteers delivered the cards to the residents along with regular monthly food boxes from the LA Regional Food Bank. Since the beginning of the pandemic, LTSC has provided volunteer delivery support to the mostly single, monolingual residents of LTT, the largest senior housing building in Little Tokyo. This year’s festive gesture was a welcome surprise for the residents who expressed their gratitude for the students as well as LTSC’s year-round social service coordination. Here’s what some of the residents had to say:


How do you feel when you look at this card?

Toshiko: This card made me so warm and full of love. I almost had tears of joy!

Dong Joo: These days in Korea we don’t deliver actual cards, so when I received this, I feel like I’m remembering my own youngsters!

Hideko: It’s refreshing because it’s handwritten. Nowadays, you don’t receive handwritten letters.


Is there anything you want to say to the students?

Young Ja: I love children, I want to say thank you to all of the kids. I also have a granddaughter, so it reminds me of her.

Dong Joo: This winter season I feel like I received a big surprise, so thank you for bringing the card!

Toshiko: God bless you, and thank you so much!


As one of the only social service providers for the AAPI community, LTSC provides service coordination for the residents at Little Tokyo Towers. What might your life look like or what might be different if you didn’t have LTSC?

Toshiko: It’s the difference between Heaven and Hell. Without the social workers office, I was alone. I made many mistakes, and each time they helped me, so thank you so much.

Hideko: When I was younger, I was able to do more things, I was capable. Now that I’m over 80 years old, a lot of things are getting harder for me to get done, especially with the language issue. Living at LTT, the service coordinators office is located on the second floor and it’s only for the residents, so it’s very easy to go downstairs to get letters translated and be helped. It’s very convenient and helpful.

Young Ja: Without LTSC services, we couldn’t survive here because we all have language barriers.


Staff Reflection:

This was my first time visiting Little Tokyo Towers (LTT) and interacting with the senior residents in such a personal capacity. In the two months I’ve been newly employed at LTSC, I’d primarily seen the residents in passing at larger events, smiling and waving, offering the occasional small talk or greeting, but I hesitated to initiate deeper conversations because of an awareness of the language barriers between us and the limitations of what we could say. But being so graciously received by the LTT residents was such an impactful reminder of why language barriers are not the inherent downfall of experiencing meaningful interactions, especially with our elders. 

Speaking with Toshiko and listening to her talk, I was taken back to conversations with my grandmother as a child. As an immigrant from the Philippines, she knew English well but primarily spoke her native tongue, so I was struck by the familiarity of the way in which Toshiko spoke. She carried so much emotion and intention in her words, pausing to carefully consider what she wanted to say, referring to my Japanese-speaking colleague Ryoko for clarifications. By the time I left, I felt warm and comforted by the knowledge that even a gesture as small as a handmade holiday card could make a difference, and my inability to speak Japanese mattered very little. Having a translator helped immensely, of course, but taking time to engage with our elders in any form is so important and such a simple way to connect with our community.


Caitlin Ginnaven

Marketing & Communications Associate

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