Volunteer Newsletter- Spring 2021 (English) - Little Tokyo Service Center

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Volunteer Newsletter

Spring 2021 Issue

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Volunteer Newsletter header with cherry blossom background

Welcome to the spring issue of our quarterly volunteer newsletter!

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of our clients and residents and positively impacting the community.

Volunteers are the heart of our organization and our work wouldn’t be possible without your support.

Keep reading to see how LTSC volunteers created positive change!

Volunteer Spotlight: Jay Hiji
South Bay Dinner Program

Jay Hiji posing with food that she will be delivering.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering with LTSC?

As a college student, some days I feel  really overwhelmed and exhausted. But whenever it’s time to volunteer, I am always amazed by how it automatically changes my spirit. I become more energized, happy, and just thankful to be able to help people in our community. I think what I enjoy most about LTSC is that they have helped me feel like I am a part of something. I feel like I’m a part of the community.

Are there any moments from your volunteer experience that stand out? 

LTSC really cares about people and it’s really great to be able to help such an inspiring organization. On March 10th, one of the organizations I am a part of at Cal State Fullerton called Leadership Scholars held a virtual event called Letters of Love. At this event, we wrote letters to the South Bay residents, which they’ll receive with the hot meal deliveries. A lot of our participants were very excited because they got to write Japanese phrases for the first time. It was great to connect my network so both sides benefited in the end.

What is something you’ve learned or developed in the last year?

Volunteering for LTSC has helped to lift my spirits during the pandemic. It has been really comforting to connect with others who are in need of help during these times -even if it’s at a safe distance. It’s definitely rekindled my love for getting involved in the community and being of service to others.

A3M Donor Recruiting

Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (A3M)’s mission is to improve the health of patients with blood cancers or blood-related disease by diversifying the national Be The Match Registry with marrow donors from various ethnic communities, therefore increasing the likelihood of patients finding a live-saving marrow match. 

Volunteers at A3M mobile donor recruitment tent In January 2021, A3M welcomed 8 new interns from UCI, UCSD, UC Davis, and CSULA. Working remotely, they run targeted Instagram pages within specific ethnic communities to recruit new donors. So far, they’ve registered 29 new donors!

With the help of 16 volunteers, Chris Chen (A3M Outreach Lead) hosted 6 drives and registered over 500 new donors in search of a match for his patient Paul. Because Paul is of Japanese and Jewish heritage, finding a stem cell match was not easy. Although a match from the public registry wasn’t found in time, his doctors proceeded with transplanting his sister’s cells who were a 50% match. Paul recently underwent the transplant surgery on Friday, March 12. We wish Paul well on his road to recovery!

Little Tokyo Eats

Chef prepares tonkatsu for LT Eats delivery

In response to the pandemic, the LT Eats meal delivery program supports local restaurants and keeps local low-income seniors safe at home. Restaurants are paid market value for their meals and seniors receive them at a subsidized rate. Volunteers and staff provide contact-free deliveries every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon.

LT Eats resumed on January 20, 2021, with Nicole Oshima as the new LT Eats coordinator. Volunteers have also delivered some special treats such as an Oshogatsu meal to celebrate the new year, Valentine’s Day plush bears (thanks to an amazing donor), and a Hinamatsuri meal with sakura mochi from Fugetsudo.

Since April 2020, over 15,000 meals (in 12 months) have been delivered to senior residents in 6 buildings across Little Tokyo. Volunteers, staff, and translators have put in over 250 hours of service from January 2021 to March 2021.

VITA Program

LTSC’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax preparation services for people with low to moderate income. 

group photo of smiling volunteers

With the 2020 tax filing season well underway, our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program adapted to the pandemic by offering virtual tax filings! 107 tax returns have been filed at our site so far, with many more to come in the next month. Our IRS certified volunteers are invaluable to this program as they perform critical filings and translation services to serve the diverse LT community.

Small Business Assistance

LTSC Small Business Counselors have been matching talented volunteers to local small businesses to bolster their support during the pandemic.

google hangout call screenshot, three callers

Currently 7 Little Tokyo small businesses are being supported by 20-25 volunteers. These volunteers provide urgent technical assistance to keep businesses visible online. Volunteers have helped owners learn how to utilize Instagram stories for promotion and engagement, build and launch websites, and even put together an IG TV series!

South Bay Meal Program

LTSC’s South Bay Office has been coordinating lunch, dinner and Food Bank programs for our clients in need throughout the pandemic. 

Japanese food items and PPE which were delivered to our clients In March, we partnered with Garden Valley JCI to assemble bags of various Japanese food items for our senior clients. These items (such as green tea and Sakura mochi) accompanied staple items provided by the LA Food Bank. We hope to continue these Japanese food bags each month with new items!

This quarter, staff and volunteers delivered 391 dinners, 193 Food Bank boxes, 65 bags of Japanese food and coordinated 743 lunch deliveries.

Far East Lounge

Located in LTSC’s Far East Building, Far East Lounge (FEL) is a multipurpose gathering space for seniors and others to connect and enjoy activities that promote wellness.

Screenshot of seniors enjoying a chair exercise class over zoom.Over the past year, Far East Lounge has been providing virtual chair exercise classes (taught by a volunteer instructor) to help keep our seniors active. In response to many requests from participants to have more classes, Far East Lounge (FEL) started two additional virtual classes: Yoga and Beginners Ukulele. Attendance skyrocketed from 16 participants in January to 63 in February with these new classes and outreach! The classes continue to be offered weekly with one-on-one technology assistance (like learning how to use Zoom) by appointment. Thank you to our FEL volunteer instructors for keeping our seniors active, healthy and happy!

Resident Services Pantry and Produce Program

LTSC’s Resident Services Department has assisted our low-income residents with food security throughout the pandemic.

two staff bagging canned goods for the food pantryResident Services’ pantry/produce program hit the one year mark in March 2021! The Pantry/Produce Program has delivered 456 produce bags and 58 pantry bags since January 2021.

Resident Services partnered with Community Feeding Community (CFC) to provide 80 free meals to seniors and families in Little Tokyo. These bi-weekly meals help supplement the alternating produce delivery schedule. The meals are purchased at full price in support of our local LT small businesses. There have been 320 CFC Meals distributed since February 2021.

A huge thank you to our volunteers for safely delivering food items to our residents. This program would not be possible without you!

Nikkei Helpline

The Nikkei Helpline is the first crisis hotline for the Japanese speaking community. Since it was created in 1984, the hotline has handled over 150,000 cases, assisting with everything from immigration, education, and traffic accidents to illness, drug abuse, relationship crises and other emergencies. NHL serves Japanese-speaking community members. Currently, phone services are provided weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. NHL is a completely volunteer-run program!

Ryugakusei Helpline

The Ryugakusei Hotline (RHL) provides information and referral services to Japanese students living in the U.S. Trained volunteers help these students, who may be experiencing isolation, with an array of issues including: mental health, relationships, landlord-tenant matters, alcohol and drugs, auto accidents and immigration. RHL is open from 10am-3:30 pm M/T/Th/F, and from 1:30-5pm on Wednesday. RHL is a completely volunteer-run program!

Volunteer Opportunities

Interested in upcoming volunteer opportunities? Check out our profile on Volunteer Match! Opportunities range from one-time event help to providing ongoing support for various programs.

Can’t volunteer, but would still like to support? Your donation creates positive change!

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