By Evangeline Cafe
Northwest Asian Weekly
Lucita Principe knows how lucky she is to have a job these days. She spent most of last year unemployed after two local restaurant chains laid her off.
“I was so sad because on Valentine’s Day, I didn’t even have a card for my husband,” said Principe.
The 60-year-old came to the U.S. in search for a better life, but the troubled economy made it nearly impossible for her to earn a living — especially at her age.
Principe’s husband Danny faced a similar problem. In the Philippines, he worked as a certified public accountant, a corporate executive, and a college lecturer. He never imagined it would be so hard finding work in America.
Last fall, a neighbor encouraged the couple to seek help from the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA). The Seattle-based nonprofit organization offers government-funded resources, on-the-job training, and multilingual support to Asian Pacific Islander seniors. The Principes said NAPCA became their lifeline.
“It came at a time when we really didn’t have a place to stay,” said Danny Principe.
The Principes first visited Washington in 2002 and permanently settled in 2007, after one of their four children petitioned for them. The couple’s priority was supporting their youngest daughter, a 17-year-old enrolled in Renton’s Lindberg High School. The family needed a home but they simply didn’t have the money.
“This was one of the more challenging cases I’ve dealt with,” said NAPCA employee Donovan Lam. “I felt an urgent need to respond right away.”
After reviewing Danny Principe’s application, Lam enrolled Principe in NAPCA’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Danny began his training as a part-time office assistant at the organization’s downtown Seattle office. He still works there.
“That intent to serve is within me, and that’s what I am enjoying at NAPCA,” Lam said.
In the Philippines, Danny Principe was a certified public accountant, a corporate executive, and a college lecturer. In the United States, finding work was a different story. With the help of NAPCA, Principe currently works as an office assistant for its headquarters in Seattle.
After enduring nearly one year without work, Lucita Principe also sought assistance. NAPCA helped her get an interview for a food services position at the Catholic Seaman’s Club (CSC) in Belltown. With her previous restaurant experience and new connections, she was able to secure the job. At the CSC, she prepared food, greeted guests, and gained valuable clerical and communication skills.
“I was so happy [and] at peace again, because it’s different when you have a job. You feel useful. You can at least provide something for your family,” she said.
After working at the CSC for several months, Lucita learned of an opening at the University of Washington Medical Center’s food and nutrition services department. She didn’t have a computer to complete her online application, so NAPCA submitted it on her behalf. She got the job and has been working there and preparing food for patients ever since.
“Oh, I like the job,” she said. “It’s tough; it’s physical because I carry trays. I prepare the food. … It’s so nice. I just love the smell of food,” she said while laughing.
Her husband just feels blessed that they can finally afford to put a roof over their heads.
“We would not have been able to get the apartment we live in had it not been for Lucita’s job at the UW,” he said.
Lam encourages more people to sign up for NAPCA’s services and to not be discouraged by the current recession.
The recently signed $787 billion economic stimulus bill has given SCSEP services a major boost nationwide.
Approximately $120 million will go towards increasing job opportunities for low-income seniors (age 55 and older).
More than $1 million is expected to trickle into NAPCA’s SCSEP program.
“Our waiting list is always ongoing. I usually tell people to fill out an application and put them on a waiting list. I will respond to them as promptly as possible,” Lam said.
The Principes look forward to hearing more success stories in the coming months.
Right now Lucita Principe can’t help but thank the workers at NAPCA for helping them get back on their feet.
“I am just so happy that I have a job. I am so thankful.” (end)
For more information on NAPCA, visit napca.org.
Evangeline Cafe may be reached at email@example.com.