By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
A year after she announced the Seattle Chinatown Public Safety CCTV Community Project, Nora Chan is disappointed.
The founding president of Seniors in Action Foundation, a nonprofit that provides help to seniors living in the Chinatown-International District (ID) and throughout the city, raised $175,000 over the past year to install cameras in the outdoor areas of Chinatown.
Now, she is preparing to return all that money back to donors.
“I feel really sad, I really do.”
The goal of the cameras was to increase resident safety, reduce crime, and improve the business environment. But no organization or person has been willing to step up and take ownership of the cameras.
Benjamin Lee, board president of Greater China Hong Kong Business Association of Washington Foundation, shares in Chan’s disappointment.
“I am extremely frustrated,” said Lee, who was one of the financial donors. “We have many elderly living in Chinatown. We need to protect them and the businesses need to be protected.”
Another donor, Harry Chan, the owner of Tai Tung Restaurant, has told Nora Chan to keep the money.
“I told her that since the money was (originally) meant to benefit the community, I said to find or do something else that benefits Chinatown, and use the money for that.”
A third of the money raised came from grants from Washington’s Historic South Downtown.
Executive Director Kathleen Johnson said, “The funding will go back into the pool of grant money for community-based projects. So far, we have pledged approximately $2.4 million in funding, including the funding to Seniors in Action. Historic South Downtown plans to release round three of our current grantmaking sometime this spring.”
In addition to maintaining and managing the camera system, the owner would have had to be the main point of contact if there are requests to access the footage. Project Manager Donny Kwan told the Northwest Asian Weekly the cost to maintain the system after the first two years would be $15,000 to $22,000 a year. Nora Chan approached a couple of nonprofits but said she was shut down, even after she told them, “I will find businesses to chip in the money [for operational costs]. I raised $175,000 in one year. I’m sure I can raise $30,000 a year. But they don’t even want to discuss it with me.”
One of those nonprofits even asked if Chan would give them the $175,000 she raised for the camera project. But Chan said no.
“I cannot just give it. This is private money.”
Chan added, “It’s out of my control now. I thought that I could get it done. But I cannot find a place to put the antenna and server… and nobody wants to manage it.”
It’s time to put closure on the project, she said, since nobody wants to step forward.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, I understand,” Chan said.
She wanted to thank the community and donors for supporting her vision.
“I will return the money to everyone. It will take me a few months to do that. The seniors who gave me $2, $3… those definitely I want to repay.”
Like Harry Chan, Nora Chan said some business owners have told her they don’t want their money back—they have asked her to keep it and use it for another purpose benefitting Chinatown.
“My organization… we support Nora 100%, financially, emotionally, for moral support,” said Lee, who is also refusing to accept a refund of his donation.
“I wish I could do more. There’s not many people like Nora, in her 70s, with health problems, running around doing things for the community.”
“I’m not stopping,” vowed Chan. “I cannot get this [camera project] done, but maybe I will do something else. Still for the benefit of Chinatown.”
Ruth can be reached at email@example.com.