By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
As a hub of the community, the Asian Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) in Tacoma has been key to serving those in need during the pandemic. In addition to being a place where it provided food assistance and vaccines, it has aided small businesses affected by the pandemic.
Many in the community that the APCC serves speak English as their second language. Thus, the center relied on word of mouth of its assistance programs through church, community, and professional leaders within the community.
“The first thing we had,” explained Executive Director Faaluaina “Lua” Pritchard, “was food assistance, cash assistance, masking and delivering and distribution of sanitation supplies.”
Its parking lot has become a COVID-19 testing site since last July.
“Testing became very important and that it was done here because people know where we are.” The center provided language assistance for those in need. Pritchard says that they have tested over 4,000 people from their site.
In addition, once vaccinations became available, the center became a place to come in. As of late April, the site had vaccinated over 3,000 people.
The center also distributed over 5,000 masks and 5,000 sanitation supplies, along with gift cards to 700 families before and after Christmas.
APCC also provided assistance to 96 small AAPI businesses by helping to fill out grants for them. The center helped with computer filing and translation services. Pritchard stated that without APCC’s support, some of the businesses would not have filled out the forms for assistance.
“We have to have lots of good partners including medical providers.” Pritchard identified the partnerships with MultiCare, Franciscan Health, Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, local AAPI churches, community leaders, and the Washington state Department of Health.
One of its biggest events of the year—the annual Lunar New Year celebration—went virtual this year. Pritchard noted the additional challenge of doing the event during the snowstorm this past February. The weeklong celebration was hampered by snow.
“The key people were here [at the APCC where some of the recording took place] to finish the live Facebook performances.” Other performances were recorded and they worked electronically to make the full presentation.
“It was really a learning curve,” Pritchard added about learning the nuances of computer recording, setting up meetups, and communicating over Zoom. “It was really crazy as we were afraid of doing things virtually.” Pritchard stated that they had to help elders within the community on how to use Zoom. They relied on younger family members to help, especially with the video camera and mute buttons on the computer. She noted that some had to wait for their children to “come and unmute them so they could speak.”
Like many organizations, APCC received financial relief and grants from the Group Health Foundation, the All in Washington Fund, and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation to name a few.
She highlighted that the nonbelief in COVID-19 and the reluctance to get the vaccine are prevalent within the community and “it’s going to continue.”
She indicated, “Lots of people don’t believe in COVID and lots of religious people believe that God will protect them.”
Pritchard stressed that the community continues to educate those people in science. “There are people who believe in side effects,” she added, “there are those that are afraid of the needle. The one thing that we tell them is that they will be safe.”
At this time, APCC has limited groups using their space, but it hopes to have in-person events this summer. At this point, they are planning both in-person and virtual gatherings. Pritchard indicated that they are starting to have socially distanced events and long-term planning for the end of the year, which includes the center’s 25th anniversary.
For more information, visit asiapacificculturalcenter.org.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.