By Assunta Ng
You don’t see Asian donors fighting to give money, fast and big, often. But it happened at Keiro Northwest’s 40th anniversary dinner on Oct. 24 at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel.
Keiro Northwest (formerly Nikkei Concerns), which specializes in elderly programs with assisted living and nursing homes, was able to galvanize its fans to raise more than $500,000, and funds are still coming in. At the event, it formally announced its new name and presented fascinating and powerful storytelling before 970 guests.
Why is Keiro able to reach such a milestone while others can’t?
Keiro’s success says a lot about the Japanese American community. They collaborate selflessly to take care of the older generation; they give generously to preserve the legacy of their parents and community members’ quality of life; and they work hard to create a strong community network to support Keiro in different dimensions.
Other Asian ethnic groups will find it hard to duplicate Keiro’s accomplishments due to the lack of desire of giving back, having too many factions to build consensus, and the political, language and regional differences the Chinese community experiences.
Strong and generous board
An organization can’t develop itself without visions. Keiro has visionary founders like Uwajimaya Chairman Tomio Moriguchi and retired Tosh Okamoto, who have remained dedicated for decades by serving on the board to guide and help expand the organization.
The board’s leadership and generosity in setting examples for the community inspires confidence and followers. It is impressive to see hundreds of volunteers listed on the program. They didn’t just volunteer, they paid for their tickets to support the event.
The current board chair is Julie Ann Oiye; the new chair is Brenda Handley. The event co-chairs are Tomoko Matsuno, Sunnie Nagai, Pat Wakazuru, and Ellen Suzuki. They all are strong women who get things done. Would anyone dare to say “no” to these women warriors?
The auction was phenomenal. Every minute produced thousands of dollars. If you were one second late in bidding on any of the auction items, you would end up with nothing. A $5,000 item jumped to $9,000 in 40 seconds. Organizers were smiling and the audience was applauding.
The fund-a-need part, asking guests to raise the paddle, raised more than $185,000 to support healthy seniors who have a desire to stay home without going to nursing homes. The program helps seniors in social and computer skills, and in paying for transportation and other services.
Over the last four decades, Keiro has accumulated and deserved recognition for all its good work. Many of the audience that were in attendance have parents or relatives who were or are under Keiro’s care. It was clear that the event was an opportunity for them to say “thank you” by giving back.
While other organizations suffer from donors’ fatigue, Keiro’s donors are eager to give a lot more because it only holds a big fundraising dinner every five years.
Another reason people came was because five of the seven Keiro founders had passed away. The community is eager to hail the two surviving founders, Moriguchi and Okamoto, according to Patty Hiroo Mastrude, Keiro’s philanthropy manager. “Without them, there will be no Keiro.”
Most fundraising events can last hours and hours. Keiro’s was well-organized. It ended on time, a little after 9 p.m. From nametags to room decorations, it was nicely done.
Mastrude said people still stayed around chatting after the event. “They felt happy that they came. No one complained. We didn’t want to go home when it’s over.”
That’s just the opposite in some community events. Well done, Keiro NW! (end)