Why does the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation organize the Top Contributors to the Asian Community gala?
It started as a selfish act. In 1990, my brother called from Hong Kong. “Sis, I am getting married. You have to promise me that you will come home for my wedding in December,” he said.
A promise is a promise, although at that time, I rarely left the newspapers in December. My staff members with families stayed home for the holidays, and I usually filled in for them.
What could I prepare in advance so that I could take off for three weeks?
I remembered what Time Magazine did. It ran its Person of the Year/Century issue at the end of the year because news tends to be slow in December. So I stole this clever idea and Top Contributors was born!
At that time, all we did was a big story. We did not have a dinner. As years passed, I regretted the fact that the community did not get a chance to meet the special honorees in person.
Recognizing someone at a live event is different from reading about them in a newspaper. At an event, it is inspiring to share in the emotions, drama, and challenges of honorees. You get to interact with them. You begin to appreciate them more. Some might even want to get involved with the honorees’ projects. Hundreds of meaningful connections can be fostered.
But then, if we had a dinner, would we have had enough people to come to support it? Could my limited staff handle another task? I pondered this for a number of years.
By 2002, the Internet was widely used in our community. It helped us organize our work. As a result, I tested the market. My goal for the first dinner was 200 guests. We had 220. The strong turnout was not what inspired me to continue the dinner. I discovered how the honorees, their families, their friends, and attendees felt about the event. The gala was a reflection of the overall achievement of the community. The celebration showcased the amazing fruits of their hard work. Simply put, it was a nice and memorable way to wrap up the year.
Undeniably, it takes an enormous amount of work to produce a big dinner.
In some years, the event attracted as many as 400 attendees. In other years, I tried to skip the event, as we had other award dinners such as the Diversity Scholarship Award Gala and the Asian American Pioneers Dinner. Whenever I decided to skip the event, there was always an outcry from the community. One year, Jerry Lee campaigned to celebrate the event. He proposed that Gov. Gary Locke be made a Top Contributor when we organized a farewell/appreciation dinner for him, so that there would be continuity. Honestly, I had thought about eliminating one dinner this year. What I didn’t expect was the strong objections from my own people.
My editors, Stacy Nguyen, of the Asian Weekly, and Rebecca Ip, of the Chinese Post, reacted not only with disbelief but with disappointment when I told them that I was thinking of skipping the event.
So I changed my mind.
One past honoree said, “My career took off when you gave me the award two years ago.” This is more than enough to motivate me to do it again next year.
The Top Contributors dinner isn’t for fundraising, so the ticket price of $50 is much more affordable than that of other community dinners. As organizers, we feel less stressed in planning the function.
This dinner is by far the most diverse awards dinner for the Asian community. This year, we had Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese honorees. If you missed it this year, make sure you participate next year. Just check out the Northwest Asian Weekly. Also, feel free to send us suggestions for nominees for 2011.
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who was sworn into office just last month, attended the Northwest Asian Weekly’s Top Contributors dinner at the House of Hong Restaurant. Diane Toledo, his opponent, still had her signs hanging up outside the restaurant. Joe did not say anything.
However, someone noticed and told the restaurant owner. He said he’d take them down.
A flower brigade for Susan Lee
Honoree Susan Lee was overwhelmed by the number of bouquets presented to her. The Korean community brought in beautiful flowers to honor Lee like a movie star. I guess you don’t have to present flowers only to performers in a show. Lee was moved.
Sen. Steve Hobbs $30,000 in debt
Sen Hobbs, Democrat, narrowly won his election in November by 956 votes in the 44th District. He has a debt of $30,000. According to politicians, that’s a small amount and could be easily erased with a few fundraising parties. What’s important is that he won!
Hobbs is half Japanese and half white. ♦