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

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Volunteer Newsletter

Summer 2021 Issue

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header image: volunteer newsletter summer 2021Welcome to the summer 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!

LTSC Volunteers

As more people got vaccinated for COVID-19 and case numbers declined, many of our COVID-19 relief programs have come to an end. These programs provided much needed support to the community and wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and compassion of all our volunteers. Many thanks to all who helped out!

Across all the programs at LTSC from April-June 2021, volunteers put in a total of 1,246.75 hours of service!

Volunteer Spotlight: Alyson Chang & Aidan Kosaka
Budokan Summer Camp

Alyson Chang and Aidan Kosaka both volunteered as Lead Counselors for the first youth basketball camp held at Terasaki Budokan. Alyson and Aidan consistently went above and beyond their duties to ensure that the campers had a great experience. From working with our youngest campers (5 and 6 year olds) to engaging in post lunch activities and extended care programming, Alyson and Aidan truly contributed to the summer camp’s success!

Alyson and Aidan pose in Budoan gym

Aidan Kosaka

What do you enjoy most about volunteering with LTSC?

One of the things I enjoy most about volunteering for LTSC and Budokan has always been going to Little Tokyo to help out. These events allow me to connect with my roots as well as connect with others in the JA community. Through these events I also developed friendships and relationships with people who continue to support the community.

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

One of the best experiences volunteering for Budokan was when we did a fundraiser that included meeting a Lakers Legend, Jerry West. I was ten years old at the time. That event was the first time I ever did a public speech and I think it allowed me to be a confident speaker today. However, the highlight of this event was when Jerry West stepped aside with me and gave me a small shooting lesson. 

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

One of the things I developed this year was my organizing skills. This year my friends and I felt that it was important to bring people back to Little Tokyo, especially my generation, so we started nHOOP (‘n Honor Of Our Parents) which is the very first basketball league at Budokan. This has taught me a lot about working with people and being organized. We had to abide by COVID-19 rules so we had to be very organized in case of contact tracing. 

Alyson Chang:

What do you enjoy most about volunteering with LTSC?

My favorite part about volunteering with Budokan is having the opportunity to create fun and memorable experiences for younger children. Throughout my childhood, I always looked up to the older camp counselors and coaches of mine who ultimately inspired me to give back to the community. I hope to do the same with the campers/players I coach so that they’ll have that same great experience and want to come back to volunteer in the future as well.

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

I was recently a coach for the Budokan basketball summer camp and had a blast. We had to wake up pretty early to get through LA traffic to spend 6 hours in the gym, but the time flew by every day. The majority of the campers that Garrett Sasaki and I coached had never played basketball before or had very minimal experience, but by the end of the week they were a whole different team. It was really awesome and rewarding to see the progress they made individually and as a team while having fun! We felt super lucky to have such a hardworking and energetic bunch who were eager to learn. 

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

In the last year, and summer especially, I’ve redeveloped my love for spending time in Little Tokyo, and Budokan has developed a special place in my heart. During high school, I rarely had the time to take a trip to Little Tokyo, but now I’m at the Budokan every Sunday night playing in the new nHOOP (‘n Honor Of Our Parents) Basketball League. Missing out on community events & JA basketball for the past year has been tough, so having the opportunity to reconnect with everyone and coordinate this league with Aidan Kosaka and Matt Okazaki has been an amazing experience. It’s also been really nice to rediscover the many delicious Japanese foods and see the nHOOP league players go out to eat after their games and support the local businesses!

Terasaki Budokan

Terasaki Budokan is a multipurpose sports and activities center in downtown LA providing youth, families, and seniors with sports leagues, community activities, and opportunities to connect visitors with the Japanese American culture and a vibrant, sustainable Little Tokyo. 

kids play basketball at BudokanFrom June 28th to July 9th, Terasaki Budokan hosted its first Summer Basketball and Karate camps. 15 volunteers put in 400+ hours over two weeks to host 45 youth, ages 5-13. Our volunteer counselors, like Aidan Kosaka and Alyson Chang (mentioned in the interview above), helped facilitate drills, teach new skills, and helped to develop new friendships for their teams through various games and activities.

Our Budokan summer interns, Kieran and Clara Mulligan helped organize after-lunch activities which included creating origami, a paper airplane contest, and a scavenger hunt around the Budokan!

The Budokan will be hosting a 4v4 Volleyball tournament on July 24th as well as a Basketball Tournament on September 5th. Check out these volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch!


Mi CASA is LTSC’s free after-school program for youth ages 6 to 18 years old supporting the physical, emotional and social health of youth in Little Tokyo and neighboring communities.

Mi casa kids pose for group photo at BudokanIn June, the Resident Services department recruited volunteers to support the Mi CASA Summer Program beginning in July. The 5-week, 4-days per week hybrid program is serving 55 youth living in LTSC’s affordable housing in Little Tokyo and the surrounding neighborhoods. The program is focused on providing youth with workshops and activities to develop self-care and coping strategies, artistic expressions, STEM skills and sports. We are grateful for the support of 9 volunteers this summer and hope they have a memorable experience supporting our youth.

Upcoming: Mi CASA After School Program will start on September 1st for the new school year. We are looking for amazing volunteers to help tutor, mentor, and engage with our youth through fun indoor and outdoor recreational activities. Keep an eye out for the volunteer callout via VolunteerMatch going live in the next few weeks.

VITA Program

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

man posing with #freetaxprepla sign in front of LTSC office.LTSC’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program wrapped up its 6th year of free tax preparation services on April 15th. This year, we provided tax preparation services virtually and in-person at our two sites, Casa Heiwa Apartments and Angelina Apartments.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions during the tax season, most volunteers met virtually. In June,  the volunteers were finally able to come together in-person at our new facility, Terasaki Budokan. Volunteers received a tour of the facility and shared delicious food and friendly activities.

With the support of 7 volunteers giving 130+ hours of assistance, the site was able to successfully electronically file 254 tax returns and paper file 12 tax returns. That translates to a total refund of $361,044 which includes over $109,000 of EIC and over $80,000 for CTC and ACTC.

We will begin preparing for the next season in late October.

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.

volunteers delivering meals

(From left to right) Pablo Arakaki from the Ladybug Cafe, Staci Yamano from LTSC & Debbie Uba (volunteer)

This quarter, the South Bay Meal Program delivered 381 dinners straight to clients’ doors throughout the South Bay area.

June marked the official end of this meal delivery program. We thank all of the volunteers who put in countless hours to ensure our clients had access to nutritious food without leaving the safety of their homes during the pandemic.

Changing Tides

Changing Tides began in 2017 with a focus to end the stigma surrounding mental health in the Asian American community through outreach, education, and open conversations. 

changing tides logoDuring the past quarter, in-person Changing Tides (CT) Cafes were held at Terasaki Budokan! Some Cafe topics included identity, communication and relationships, self-image, and healthy responses and reactions. Additionally, CT Podcast episodes were released, hosted by CT Crew member Matthew Yonemura. The CT Podcast engages individuals in our community who are willing to share their stories related to mental health and well-being. Recent guests have covered topics related to mental health and food, the impact of sports on mental health, and a therapist’s perspective on finding peace. CT Crew members have also been taking leadership roles in developing a pipeline of mental health services so that AAPI youth and young adults from 16-25 years of age who need therapy and support are able to access services, regardless of their financial challenges.

The podcast is averaging 75 listens per interview and recently picked up a partner/sponsor, Betterhelp, to expand its audience base.

Far East Lounge

Far East Lounge (FEL) is a multipurpose gathering space for seniors and others to connect and enjoy activities that promote wellness.

far east lounge class participantsFEL in-person activities resumed at Terasaki Budokan in June! With the help of 6 passionate volunteer instructors putting in over 20 hours of service, FEL provided 7 different classes for the senior community. 48 seniors have participated in Ping Ping, Gentle Exercise, Tai Chi, Yoga, Zumba, Ukulele, Morning Cafe social hours.

Thank you to the FEL volunteer instructors for making this possible! FEL is also planning to add a computer/smartphone assistance class and Arts and Eats class in July with 2 new volunteer instructors!

Little Tokyo Eats

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

LT Eats volunteersApril 6, 2021 marked one year of LT Eats deliveries, and our volunteers continued to be just as dedicated as they were when the program started in April 2020. Still abiding by COVID-19 guidelines, we limited volunteers to about 5-6 per day, and by April we had a core group of volunteers coming weekly. From April-June, 4,348 meals were delivered by volunteers to six buildings throughout Little Tokyo.

On June 8, there was a fire at the commercial building next to Casa Heiwa. While the LTSC office and surrounding streets were closed for the following 2 days, LT Eats continued. Our volunteers showed up promptly at 3 pm, and carried out the deliveries to all 6 buildings per usual. The deliveries went smoothly, thanks to our incredible volunteers!

June 30 marked the end of LT Eats, and all volunteers expressed interest in continuing their involvement with LTSC and Little Tokyo after the program’s end.

Thank you everyone for your incredible support!

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. A3M donor recruitment event

A team of volunteers were able to come to La Canada/Flintridge to help in a registry event for A3M’s patient, Daniel. They helped run a drive in the chilly rain to try to find their friend a donor match.

In May, 7 of our interns graduated from high school and universities (congrats!), with many of them choosing to stay on and help with our live events through the summer. Due to the pandemic, interns couldn’t attend live events, so they pushed their recruitment efforts solely through social media. However, once restrictions eased in June, we were able to have them return to in-person events. They have helped at drives all the way from the Central Valley (Fresno) to right here in SoCal. This July, August and September our interns will brave the heat out at the 626 Night Market.

Our volunteers and interns helped us register close to 60 new potential donors. We can’t wait to see what they do at 626 Night Market!

Upcoming: 626 Night Market in Arcadia: 8/27-8/29 and 9/3-9/5.

Little Tokyo Towers Food Bank Distribution

LTSC provides social services at Little Tokyo Towers, an affordable senior housing building in Little Tokyo. When the pandemic hit, we began food pantry distributions to assist home-bound seniors.

April marked one full year of Food Pantry Distribution at Little Tokyo Towers. Starting as a pandemic relief program, these pantry boxes provide seniors with dry and canned good staples once a month. Four dedicated volunteers have returned each month to make the delivery of the 190+ food pantry boxes possible! Thank you for all of the heavy lifting!

Nikkei Helpline

The Nikkei Helpline is the first crisis hotline for the Japanese speaking community. Since it was created in 1984, over 150,000 people have called the Nikkei Helpline for assistance with everything from immigration, education, and traffic accidents to illness, drug abuse, relationship crises and other emergencies. 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. Since the re-opening of the office, RHL has received an influx of calls, many of whom were referred by the Consulate General of Japan. 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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