LTSCene – January 2022 - Little Tokyo Service Center

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LTSCene Monthly Newsletter

January 2022 Issue

Year of the Tiger new years card by agnes lee

Happy new year from LTSC! Every New Year, the Social Services Department works with local artists to design a Nengajyo (New Year’s card). This year, we worked with Agnes Lee who is a resident of JCI Gardens in Torrance. The 2022 Year of the Tiger drawing is her creation! Please continue reading for an excerpt from the social services department’s ‘Through the Seasons‘ newsletter for Agnes’ self introduction.

Meet Agnes Lee. 

agnes lee portraitI emigrated from Korea in 1974. I ran a nursery in Koreatown for ten years to raise my three children as a single mother. As everyone else has, I have encountered many obstacles in my life.Art is what has kept me going and continually helped me overcome emotional challenges in my life during times of suffering. Art is my whole life. Art represents happiness to me.My mother told me that I started drawing when I was three years old. I was admitted to art school in Korea because of my talent, but was unable to finish my courses due to financial reasons and transferred to a different school. That didn’t stop me from drawing. I persevered and was awarded many prizes in art competitions during my school years.

I usually draw semi-abstract paintings using acrylic paint. I primarily focus on drawing landscapes. When I draw, it makes me feel alive and at peace.I also learned Ikebana (flower arrangement) from Sogetsu, and participated in several exhibitions at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo.

I feel appreciated for my talents and enjoy sharing with others. Therefore, I opened a coffee shop inside of my nursery in 2002 to provide a space for other talented artists to work on their art and made a stage to help them perform in public. Many artists utilized the space until I closed the shop in 2006. In 2012, I held a solo exhibition for my 70th birthday.This year, I’ll be 80 years old and am hoping to hold a family exhibition. My two daughters are both artists and my son is a musician. We are currently preparing the exhibition, and I hope we can accomplish this goal together as a family. The year of 2021 was challenging for everyone. This year, I would like to see peace on earth, starting with an end to the pandemic so that people can see each other in person and spend time together in harmony.

title text: new board membersIn 2022, LTSC is pleased to announce the addition of three new members to its board of directors. The new members are Betty Avila, Bibiana Rosalia and Chris Aihara. “We are extremely grateful to welcome these three extraordinary women to our board,” said LTSC Executive Director Erich Nakano. “Their invaluable knowledge, experience and deep commitment to our mission will strengthen LTSC and thoughtfully guide our work.”

Bibiana Rosalia portraitBibiana Rosalia

Bibiana Rosalia is a Casa Heiwa resident, works as a Philanthropy Associate for PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) and is a sound healing practitioner. Her sound healing practice is called The Sacred Sounds. Additionally, she has been a soprano in The Urban Voices Project choir ensemble for almost 3 years, currently serves on their Board, and is an alumnus of the Street Symphony Daniel Chaney Voice Fellows program. She is passionately dedicated to sharing the healing power of music with others and with helping our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

betty avila portraitBetty Avila

Betty Avila’s (she/her) work has centered on the intersection of the arts and social justice, with particular focus on community building, public space, and youth empowerment. She grew up in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Cypress Park and has held positions with the Getty Research Institute, The Music Center and the Levitt Pavilion. Betty joined Self Help Graphics’ leadership in 2015, an organization with a 48-year nationally-recognized artistic legacy of empowering the Chicana/o and Latinx communities of Los Angeles through the arts. She is the Chair of the Latinx Arts Alliance, sits on the Center for Cultural Innovation’s and our board, while previously sitting on the boards of Arts for LA and People for Mobility Justice. Betty is a passionate arts advocate, centering equity and justice, and she sat on the inaugural Advisory Committee for Los Angeles County’s Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative as an appointee of Supervisor Hilda Solis. Betty has been invited to speak for the Ford Foundation, The Getty Foundation, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, California Association of Museums, Western Art Alliance and more. In 2017, Betty was named one of C-Suite Quarterly Magazine’s NextGen 10 in Philanthropy, Arts and Culture and an Impact-Maker to Watch by City Impact Labs. She received her B.A. in Literature at Pitzer College, has an M.A. in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University, and is a 2008 Fulbright Fellow to Korea.

chris aihara portraitChris Aihara

Chris Aihara considers herself one of the fortunate ones whose personal passions have been integrated into her professional life. A Sansei (third-generation Japanese American), she joined a fledgling Japanese American Community Center in 1982 where she was able to develop and experience programs which presented and explored Japanese and Japanese American culture.  Her work at JACCC enabled her to immerse herself in the Little Tokyo Japanese American community, and helped her to identify key community concerns and needs. During her tenure at the JACCC she was a member of the California Japanese American Leadership Council which successfully lobbied for the passage of Senate Bill 307, bringing attention and funds to the preservation of Little Tokyo. Chris has served on the board of directors of the Little Tokyo Community Council since its formation in 1999. While serving on the LTCC board, she accepted a position on the Metro Regional Connector Leadership Council, recognizing this transit project would have significant impact on the Little Tokyo community. Retiring from JACCC in 2011, she assumed position as Director of Development at Little Tokyo Service Center where she was responsible for fund development activities and communications, and became part of the capital campaign team to raise funds for Terasaki Budokan. Chris retired from LTSC in 2021. Chris is married to Doug Aihara who owned a legacy Little Tokyo business, Aihara Insurance. They have four children, 3 sons and 1 daughter, and 6 grandchildren.

LTSC had the chance to catch up with Bibiana and Chris to gain some insight into their history with LTSC and what they’re looking forward to as they join the Board.


How were you first introduced to LTSC and why have you stayed connected?

Bibi: I am a resident of Little Tokyo–more specifically I am a part of the Casa Heiwa resident community.  However, I first heard of LTSC years ago through my previous employer.

Chris: LTSC began in the offices of the JACCC, where I was Executive Director. I would pop down to the 4th floor to visit Bill, Yasuko and Evelyn and seek out resources. Over the years, Bill and I worked on many projects together. I also worked with LTSC staff to initiate the San Tai San (3-on-3) basketball tournament. This was as part of JACCC Children’s Day and was intended to draw attention to the need for a gymnasium in Little Tokyo (part of the journey to building Terasaki Budokan). I have stayed connected with LTSC because of our mutual commitment to the well-being of our community.  I have always respected LTSC’s integrity as an organization and their commitment to equity and social justice.


What are some areas of LTSC’s work that you’re excited to engage with? 

Bibi: There are so many great programs that LTSC provides, so I’m excited to connect and engage with the community. I’m very interested in LTSC’s community organizing, senior services, civic engagement, and affordable housing work. I’m also currently involved with the Arts Action Committee through Sustainable Little Tokyo (which LTSC is part of).  We are in the midst of planning a healing event during which I’ll lead a sound healing workshop.

Chris: Because of my long tenure in Little Tokyo and specific work in Japanese American cultural activities, I have a good understanding of the community, the players, the relationships, the issues, and the cultural nuances. So, I’m excited to contribute to LTSC’s Little Tokyo specific work.


Why is serving on LTSC’s Board of Directors meaningful to you?

Bibi: This is an opportunity for me to serve and give back to this amazing community and express my gratitude. Ever since I moved to Little Tokyo 3 years ago, I’ve been in awe of how this community really bands together in solidarity in so many ways. I’m really proud to be part of the Little Tokyo community.

Chris: It is personally validating to be asked to join the LTSC board, that I may continue to contribute in a meaningful way to the organization and to the community.


What are some of your favorite Little Tokyo businesses/institutions?

Bibi: I love Marukai Market, Little Tokyo Market Place, Yamazaki Bakery, Café Dulce, Kinokuniya Bookstore, KC Salon, and of course Little Tokyo Service Center! These are my staples. I’m grateful for and love being a patron of these local businesses.

Chris: Suehiro is one of the last old-school Little Tokyo restaurants. I like the oroshii soba and the Suehiro special–it comes with ice-cream! Mrs. Kawaratani owns Rafu Bussan and still goes into the store despite her 95+ years. Café Dulce is one of my favorite places because the food and drinks are good, like the kale salad.  But I support the store even more because its owner James Choi has been such a great addition to the community. Another great new business is Japangeles–owner Roy Kuroyanagi partners with Little Tokyo organizations to create products which help raise funds for the community.

title text: meet mark kimuraMeet Mark Kimura, the organizer behind Kevyn’s Luncheon

Mark kimura and tom sogiBringing people together is what Mark Kimura does best.  As the founder of the Nikkei Basketball Association, Mark figured, “if we could get people together to play ball, why not get people together to do something good for the community.” This idea led to a conversation with Tom Sogi, LTSC’s former director of Resident  Services, who suggested doing something that benefits the elderly, a group who is often overlooked during the holidays despite people’s good intentions. “I wanted to honor (seniors) and make sure they knew that they were respected and not forgotten,” said Mark.

What started out as a simple meal cooked and hosted by Mark and his siblings has grown to become a Little Tokyo Christmas tradition running for over 20 years.  As donations from friends, family and players from Mark’s basketball league grew, so did the event, which now includes catered food and bingo for seniors. “Now we have gifts and catered food. They all get to eat, they all get a ticket and they all get to win a prize,” explained Mark.

Known as Kevyn’s Luncheon, in honor of Kevyn Nojima, a volunteer and basketball standout who lost his life at the young age of 22 due to bone cancer, the luncheon gives Mark a chance to not only honor Kevyn’s legacy, but to teach youth in his basketball league about the importance of giving back. “That feeling of doing good for others is contagious…It might resident poses with food and goodiescome off as cliché, but I think we get more out of this than those on the receiving end,” said Mark.

Mark’s commitment to community and the generosity of those who donate to Kevyn’s Luncheon helps LTSC spread holiday cheer to seniors in our community. Though the popular bingo aspect of the luncheon has been missing recently due to the pandemic, Mark continued the tradition of giving back to seniors by delivering food and gifts to Casa Heiwa residents this past holiday season. He remains hopeful that he will be able to host the luncheon and bring back bingo next Christmas- a sentiment shared by many seniors in our community.  LTSC is grateful for community members like Mark and his supporters who help to create a positive impact for members of our community.

2021 real estate highlightsLooking back at LTSC’s real estate triumphs from 2021

2021 was an exciting and productive year for LTSC’s real estate department, reaching several major milestones. As the need for affordable housing grows, LTSC is using both traditional and innovative strategies to support solutions to the homelessness crisis. 

Here are the top 3 milestones from 2021:

  1. First street north apartments renderingFirst Street North Apartments Expansion: The ground lease for LTSC’s First Street North Apartments (formerly ‘Go For Broke Apartments’) tripled in size after Councilmember Kevin DeLeon’s City Council motion was approved. This increased the project’s affordable housing units from 77 to 248 units. All entitlements and local/state funding commitments were secured, bringing the project one step closer to construction. The project will also bring much needed green space, retail space, and community space to Little Tokyo.
  2. 700 Simmons Property Acquisition: LTSC acquired an 11-unit multi-family apartment building in East LA in partnership with Fideicomiso Comunitario Tierra Libre (FCTL). LTSC will work with FCTL to make renovations and manage the property, with the eventual goal of turning over ownership to the tenants–thus keeping the property in the hands of the community. This partnership is part of LA County’s  pilot Community Land Trust (CLT) project, which LTSC helped to create.
  3. Santa Monica and Vermont Apartments Funding: With all funding secured and construction loan terms finalized, LTSC is set to break ground on the Santa Monica and Vermont Apartments in the upcoming months. This project will bring 185 units of affordable and permanent supportive housing, retail space and health services to the East Hollywood neighborhood, located at the Santa Monica and Vermont Metro station.

title text: youth leadership pipeline internshipIntern Spotlight: Kendra Lopez

kendra lopez portraitMeet Kendra Lopez, one of the interns in our Youth Leadership Pipeline Internship! Kendra is currently a sophomore in high school and has been living at Casa Heiwa since she was 6 years old and has grown up participating in LTSC programs and events. LTSC recently sat down with Kendra to learn more about her experience as one of the first interns in our brand new internship program aimed to develop leadership skills for the future stakeholders of our community.

How did you find out about this internship? Why did you decide to apply?

I found out about this internship through Nancy (LTSC resident services director), who reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in joining. I decided to join because I want to make a change in the community and I thought that it would be a really good opportunity for me.

What do you hope to get out of this internship?

Some things that I hope to get out of this internship are better public speaking skills.

What are you most excited about in this internship?

I am most excited about what I can learn from this experience because I know that it can better prepare me for the future.

What are some changes in the community that you hope to see in the future? What impact do you hope to have on the community?

I want to be in touch with my community more. I hope to be someone that people can count on.

What are some of your personal goals for the future? How will this internship help you get there?

One of my personal goals is to make it into a good university or college. I hope that this internship can help by shaping me into a person who can reach those goals.

How has your experience as an intern been thus far?

This has been an amazing experience. It has been fun getting to talk and get to know all of the kids.

Would you recommend this internship to others? 

I would recommend this internship to others because it will help better prepare you for the future. I would also recommend it because of the people you meet along the way.

title- thank you, citi foundationCiti Foundation selects LTSC for its Community Progress Makers Initiative to Advance Social and Economic Opportunity in Los Angeles

LTSC was selected by Citi Foundation as a recipient of the Community Progress Makers initiative which supports visionary organizations across the U.S. that are working to connect low-income communities and communities of color to greater social and economic opportunity.

ribbon cuttingAs a Community Progress Maker, we will receive a multi-year, unrestricted grant of $500,000 and access to technical assistance and a supportive learning community. “The need for affordable housing has become more pressing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic downturn and the slow recovery that has just begun,” said Debbie Chen, LTSC’s Director of Real Estate. “Funding from Citi Foundation Community Progress Makers will allow LTSC to increase its capacity to provide housing to the most vulnerable residents.”

LTSC would like to thank Citi Foundation for continuing to support our work to address the lack of affordable housing in Los Angeles, and for strengthening communities of color.

happy lunar new yearYear of the Tiger New Years Card


Usher in the new year with generosity and prosperity! Make a Lunar New Year’s gift to LTSC in honor of a loved one, and we’ll send them a customized ‘Year of the Tiger’ e-card.

title text: upcoming eventsbudokan grand opening flier

title: Covid update
covid infosheetcovid infosheet

header text "quick updates"

all of us logo
LTSC Joins ‘All of Us’
LTSC has joined ‘All of Us’ , a research program aiming to speed up health research breakthroughs. Oftentimes, Asian Americans have been left out of research and ‘All of Us’ aims to bridge this gap to ensure that Asian Americans do not get left out of health studies. Click here for more info about ‘All of Us’.opens PDF file





through the seasons cover artwork‘Through the Seasons’ Out Now!

‘Through the Seasons’, LTSC’s social services department’s quarterly newsletter is now available! Learn more about the success stories coming out of the social services department. Click here to read the ‘Through the Seasons’ newsletteropens PDF file available in English and Japanese!




matthew yonemura speaks at changing tides galaMatthew Yonemura Appears on Asian America Podcast

Changing Tides’ program coordinator, Matthew Yonemura recently appeared on the ‘Asian America’ podcast, where he talked Changing Tides and how mental health is perceived in the Asian American community. Click here to listen to the episode!





volunteers serve food to residents

Thank you Volunteers!
LTSC is grateful for the generosity of employees from Manufacturers Bank, who stopped by the Resident Holiday Party to help us serve food and provide goodies to our residents. Thank you for helping us spread holiday cheer!






Daimaru Now Leasing!

Daimaru is now leasing rooms! Located on First St. in the heart of Little Tokyo, across the street from the Japanese Village Plaza, Daimaru is walking distance from restaurants, nightlife, public transportation and more.  For more information, click here to visit the Daimaru website!

your donation makes a difference

Thank you to all of our wonderful donors and supporters.

Our work isn’t possible without you!

Maximize your impact with a recurring monthly gift! No matter the size, your gift creates positive change in the lives of our clients and in our community. Monthly giving lets LTSC flexibly address the most pressing needs first, whether it’s mental health support for teens, food security for seniors, or rental assistance for families. Your support is critical to our success!

December 2021 Donors

Thank you to all our supporters for your contributions last month!
Add your name to the list by making a DONATION today.


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Tribute Gifts

In Honor of Brian Hamasaki 

Jo Ann Hamasaki


In Honor of Alice and Kazuo Ishibashi

Irene Rafael


In Honor of Tae and Claire Kitayama Kang 

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In Honor of Dano and Staci Kent 



In Honor of The Kosaka Family 

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In Honor of Paul and Barbara Kumasaka 

Andrew Kumasaka


In Honor of George Lee 

Deborah Lee


In Honor of Meredith Maimoni 

Shirley Komoto


In Honor of Akemi Miyake 



In Honor of Justen Quan 



In Honor of Grant Sunoo 

Mark and Janet Brown


In Honor of Malina Tran 

Aura Gamez


Memorial Gifts

In Memory of Alvin and May Arakaki

Clifford and Takako Arakaki


In Memory of May Arakaki 

Dahni Tsuboi and Pete Manzo


In Memory of Toki Hirai



In Memory of William Ishibashi



In Memory of Kayoko Kaye Ishida

Patricia Ishida


In Memory of Rose E. Ito

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In Memory of Elso Kanagawa

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In Memory of Dean Matsubayashi

Heidie Joo Burwell 

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In Memory of S. Stephen & Sally Nakashima



In Memory of Kenneth M. Nishimoto AIA / Kay K. Nishimoto

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Abbott Laboratories

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Carol Sato


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In Memory of Nicholas Song

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In Memory of Naoko Zumwalt



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Terasaki Budokan Tribute Gifts

In Honor of Susan Ogawa

Craig and Cindy Ogawa


In Honor of Bill Watanabe

Suzanne and Henry Borenstein Family


Terasaki Budokan Memorial Gifts

In Memory of Aki Komai

Michael Komai


In Memory of Dean Matsubayashi

Dee Montealvo


In Memory of John and Trudy Nishizu

Westmont Corporation


Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (A3M)

Anonymous (4)

Vien Le

William and Ida Sugahiro

Ben and Judy Tang

Haobo Yu


In-kind Donations

Ares Management LLC

B & B Toy Maker Inc.

Robert and LaVerne Cohen

Veronica Marshall

Adina Mori-Holt and Whitman Holt

Mickie Okamoto-Tsudama and Geoff Tsudama

Sansei Legacy

Shelter Partnership

Marsha and Gary Watanabe

Karyn Yamate

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