LTSCene – May 2021 - Little Tokyo Service Center

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LTSCene Monthly Newsletter

May 2021 Issue

Text: Fighting to end the Stigma
LTSC’s Changing Tides Works to Erase the Stigma Around Mental Health Among the AAPI Community

4 Changing Tides members pose in front of a changing tides sign

At LTSC, the Changing Tides program leads the charge in tackling the stigma around mental health amongst the Japanese American and broader Asian American community.  They aim to do so by inspiring greater conversations surrounding mental health, educating the community, and creating a more open minded generation.  With May being both Mental Health Awareness month and AAPI Heritage month, we celebrate the work that Changing Tides has been doing to promote mental wellness among the AAPI community.

What first started as an open conversation hosted by youth and young adults around compassion and well being, Changing Tides has evolved into a LTSC program.  In order to achieve their goals, the Changing Tides team have been working tirelessly to create change through education and conversation, much like their first event.  By creating safe spaces where open dialogue about mental health can take place, participants in their programs get a chance to share their journeys, while learning from other’s experiences.  They’ve achieved this through multiple avenues, from facilitating workshops, to organizing events like the CT Cafe, and even hosting their own podcast.

Though there still remains a stigma surrounding mental health in the AAPI community, and in society as a whole, we hope that programs like Changing Tides can push the conversation around mental wellness forward, so that future generations are more open minded.  This AAPI Heritage and Mental Health Awareness month, we celebrate Changing Tides’ accomplishments thus far, and invite you to join the conversation! 

Join the conversation! Sign up to attend the CT cafe!

Listen to the Changing Tides Podcast!

text: resident art displays
Public Art Displays Showcase Residents’ Talent

LTSC’s artist in residence, Carol Zou, reached out to residents at LTSC’s buildings, and asked them to reflect upon and illustrate what “community care” meant to them during this past year.  The pieces which were received will be collaged and turned into vinyl window decals that will be displayed on windows around Little Tokyo, such as Budokan and Casa Heiwa, so that the community can enjoy the artwork in a safe and socially distanced manner.

A total of 22 pieces were submitted by residents, and the resident-led Community Action Team is working with Kenji Liu on a collaborative piece as well.  Along with the window decals, the Community Action Team is working on planning an Art Night to feature the artists in a public exhibition.  Though the Art Night may be limited to residents for Covid safety reasons, the window decals will be visible to the public starting in late June, so keep an eye out for the work from our talented residents when you visit the neighborhood!

3 art pieces collaged together. Top piece shows 3 LTSC workers at a food drive for thanksgiving, bottom left illustration shows 2 LTSC workers packing a wagon with bags of food and last image shows 4 fish and an octopus on a boat on the oceanArt by Kristal De Marcos, Mitsuko De Marcos, and Setsuko Hayashi.

text: free tax assistance
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Returns to Help Residents with Taxes

man posing with #freetaxprepla sign in front of LTSC office.

The yearly chore—filing tax returns. LTSC wanted to help residents with this responsibility and again opened a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in Little Tokyo and another in Echo Park. For the 2020 tax season, 7 trained volunteers assisted 266 tax filers with their returns enabling them to receive total refunds of $361,044. The adjusted gross income for our filers is around $20,000 so the average $1,700 refund is a big savings. In addition, the total earned income credit was over $109,000. “Our volunteers made sure our residents received all the refunds and credits they are entitled to,” said Gilda Hernandez, LTSC’s Neighborhood Services Coordinator. “Household budgets have been stretched so thin this year, every dollar helps.” LTSC would like to thank the dedicated VITA volunteers for their hard work helping families and seniors in need.

Text: Community Land Trust
LTSC and FCTL Acquire Property in East LA

LTSC, along with other community development corporations, community groups and Enterprise Community Partners, is continuing to find new solutions to the affordable housing crisis in Los Angeles. One promising solution is countywide Community Land Trusts (CLTs.) 

LTSC logo and Fideicomiso Comunitario Tierra Libre logo in front of a backdrop which depicts an LA sunset

“Even though we don’t see many in LA, CLTs have been around since the late 1960’s,” said Debbie Chen, Director of Real Estate Development for LTSC. “They are another tool in our toolbox to further advance community control and address the growing need for affordable housing,” she explained. CLTs purchase affordable housing, maintain its long-term affordability and keep the property out of speculator’s hands. Seeing its potential, the County of LA passed a motion last year to dedicate approximately $14 million towards creating a CLT pilot project, which Debbie helped create.

Fideicomiso Comunitario Tierra Libre is a start-up Community Land Trust in East LA that LTSC has partnered with. “This partnership is aligned with our mission and vision,” said Eva Garcia Barrera, Co-President of Fideicomiso Comunitaro Tierra Libre. “We are excited to learn and grow through our partnership with LTSC.” Recently, LTSC acquired an 11-unit, multifamily apartment building in East LA – the first property of the CLT with FCTL. 

LTSC will work with Eva and her team to make needed renovations and manage the property, with the goal of turning over full ownership in three years. “Without this partnership it would have been difficult to acquire a building because of our early stage of organizational development,” explained Eva.This (project) represents our collective efforts to preserve affordable housing and prevent homelessness in LA County. We look forward to building a movement for community control of land and housing with LTSC.” 

text; bridging the digital divide
Teaching Seniors How to Zoom to Fight Social Isolation

Moto posing outside the door of the far east loungeBefore March 2020 did you know what Zoom was? Maybe you remember the 1970’s children’s television show with the same name. As we all know now, Zoom has provided a safe way for people to meet online during COVID times. But not everyone knows how to use it. Seniors wanting to safely connect with their friends and family have been left out of this virtual marvel.  But not to fear, Moto to the rescue! LTSC’s Far East Lounge Coordinator, Mototsugu “Moto” Sekiya, is helping seniors learn how to set up and use a Zoom account. “Many seniors have been socially isolated from their friends and family during the pandemic,” said Moto. “Even though there are many new ways to connect virtually, technology has been an obstacle,” he explained. So far, Moto has provided over 40 individual and group Zoom learning sessions allowing seniors to remain socially active while keeping safe. Thank you Moto for bridging the digital divide!

Header text "Community Safety Reminder"

Keeping Our Seniors and Community Safe from Anti-Asian Violence

Though headlines around violence against the Asian community have seemed to slow down on the news, anti Asian violence still persists.  LTSC has partnered with various community groups to address this issue and work to keep our community members safe.  Through self defense education, bystander intervention training, and community building, we are determined to protect Little Tokyo from anti Asian hate.  Click the link below for a copy of a safety tip sheet that we’ve developed with Keiro, and help us keep our seniors safe!

Safety Tip Sheet

Welcome (Back) to Little Tokyo

With the vaccine rollout underway and restrictions loosening, it’s been great seeing people come back to Little Tokyo to eat, shop, and play!  With that being said, please be mindful of others and try to practice social distancing as much as possible.  The pandemic is not over yet, and we need everyone’s help to ensure the safety of our community. Please stay safe and healthy while visiting Little Tokyo!

Love Little Tokyo text below heart shape created by hands, with 2 masked up kokeshi dolls staying 6feet apart on the left, and a mankei neko wearing a mask holding a bar of soap on the right.Illustrations by Lisa Aihara

header text "quick updates"

Community members attending an outdoor event giving their input for what they want to see included in the FSN development.

Uplifting our Residents’ Voices

LTSC engaged our Little Tokyo residents to discuss what they want to see at the upcoming First Street North development. With their input, we hope to address the community’s needs- an important step whenever we work on real estate projects






Screen shot of a virtual workshop presentation, featuring a map of South East Asian, and text that reads, "Food and animals of South East Asia".

Students Learn About Asian Cultures

In celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, Mi CASA (LTSC’s after school program) focused on learning about various Asian cultures, while providing children a safe space to express themselves.  The workshops covered topics like food and culture in South East Asia, origami activities, and anime.  Using scenes from the animated movie, Fireflies,  staff talked with students about how the scene made them feel, what could’ve been done to help the characters in this situation, themes of food insecurity, and shared with them resources that LTSC has to help support students with food insecurity or any other needs they may have.



flyer for Parents' mental health workshop

Parenting Workshop

In partnership with the Japanese Consulate General’s Office, LTSC hosted a workshop about Children’s Emotions/Behaviors, and how that can affect parents’ mental health.  The past year has been difficult for children and parents alike, and the workshop offered parents a chance to join a discussion around wellness and how the pandemic has affected their wellbeing.  The discussion was moderated by LTSC’s Jade Yamada, LCSW, who was joined by doctors Tomoya Hirota, MD, and Takeo Toyoshima, MD, who both work in the mental health field.




Group photo of Budokan staff, Galaxy staff, and mi casa students.Special Thanks to the LA Galaxy!

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, LA Galaxy staff and the team’s mascot, Cozmo, visited the Budokan to donate sports equipment and backpacks full of school supplies, as well as funds for LT Eats.  Budokan was partially funded by a $100,000 grant from the AEG Community Foundation back in 2019. Thank you to the LA Galaxy and AEG Group for your continued support!

Header text: Upcoming events


sake on the couch save the date flier

Sake on the Rocks Couch

LTSC’s annual Sake on the Rocks fundraiser is going VIRTUAL! Save the date so you don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind event!

This year’s event will feature a unique online platform, real-time mingling, live program elements, virtual experiences, sake tasting at home, and much more! More information coming soon:


camp budokan flyer

Camp Budokan- Youth Summer Sports Camp

Register here!

title text: LTSC in the mediaSpeaking Engagements by LTSC Staff Members

Title text: LTSC speaking engagements

  • Erich Nakano, Executive Director
    • Met with Governor Newsom and other AAPI organizations to discuss anti-Asian violence.
    • Spoke on a NeighborWorks Panel and featured on the NeighborWorks blog for his work in AAPI activism. (Read Here!)
    • Spoke on panel put on by the Dodgers Asian Employee Resource Group and Bank of Americas Asian Leadership Network in honor of AAPI Heritage Month.
  • Takao Suzuki, Director of Community Development
    • Spoke on a LISC LA panel discussing rent relief.
    • Spoke on a SF Japantown Community Land Panel about community land acquisition.
  • Grant Sunoo, Director of Community Building and Engagement
    • Spoke on a Universal Music Group panel to discuss anti-Asian hate.
  • Caroline Calderon, Assistant Project Manager (Real Estate)
    • Spoke on a panel organized by This Side of Hoover and Jimbo Times about redlining, gentrification, and housing in East Hollywood.
  • Debbie Chen, Director of Real Estate
    • Spoke on an Enterprise webinar titled, “Gaining Ground: The State of Acquisition & Preservation in California”

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Thank you to all of our wonderful donors and supporters.

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April 2021 Donors

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


Dennis Arguelles

Faith Baty

Dylan Brown

Alicia Burr

Ryan Camarda

Kirsten Chong

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Liz and John Doomey

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Sandee Furuta

Mark Gosselin

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Rebecca Han

Lisa Hasegawa

Maya Hayashi and Michael Taila

Kerin Higa

Frank and Betty Hiji

Meghan Holtan

The Paul S. Honda Foundation

Tracy Hou

Yuko Howes

Peter Huang

Kate Johnstone

Love Jonson

Rosalyn Kawahira

Iku Kiriyama

Carolyn Kobayashi

Tomoko Kojima

Liam Lake


Oliver Lee

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Susan Maki

Jodi Marks

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Mariko Motoyama

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Mike Murase and June Hibino

Nicole Murph

Debra Nakatomi and Bob Miyamoto

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John Okita and Michiko Yamamoto

Susan Osa

PayPal Giving Fund

Michael Pelensky

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Dan Shapiro

Margaret and Ken Shimada +Friends

Grant Sunoo and Emily Mayeda

Lorraine Suzuki

Michael Suzuki

Kathy and Russell Tagawa

Hope Taglich

Esther Taira

Kelly and Rintaro Takasu

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Michi Tanioka

Chelle Tateishi

Mayumi Thrasher

Gary Tokumori


Keith Umemoto

Universal Music Group’s Task Force for Meaningful Change

Kristine Vu

Momoyo Walters

Marsha and Gary Watanabe

Weingart Foundation

Lesley and Russell Wong

Michael Wong

Stephanie Wong

Catherine Yen

Jeff Yonemura

Mark Yoshida

Tribute Gifts

In Honor of Robert Kuramoto

Paige Sanders

In Honor of Dave Mitani and family

John and Sally Mitani

In Honor of Ty Tanioka

Tiana Austel

In Honor of Mononique Tervalon

Sandy Wang

Memorial Gifts

In Memory of Fred (Tadashi) Kato

Todd Fujimoto

In Memory of Delcey Kawasaki

Louis and Beatrice Danoff

In Memory of Keiko Kuida

Grace Hamada

B. Sakata

Sumi Tsuno

In Memory of Dean Matsubayashi

Pauline Shirasu Griffith

In Memory of Mark M. Nakamura

Joanne Nakamura

In Memory of Mitsue Nishio

Cynthia Hirokawa

Steve and Patty Nagano

In Memory of Merrilynne Hamano Quon

Richard Quon

Grant, Susan, Tim and Craig Shimizu

In Memory of Jeannette Kyoko Sanderson

Emily and Dan Weaver

In Memory of Kiyoshi and Chieko Shimokaji

Michael Shimokaji

In Memory of Mary Sayoko Tomiyama

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In Memory of Henry (Hank) Yamada, D.D.S.

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Terasaki Budokan Memorial Gifts

In Memory of Delcey Kawasaki


Donna Tucker

In-kind Donations

MAMA’s Drive By Kitchen

Nathan Mayeda

Colleen Seto-Gee and Douglas Gee

Shelter Partnership

Starbucks – 2nd & Central

Patrick and Gerrie Zvara

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