Community Organizations Serve in Oakland and San Francisco Chinatowns


BY Gerrye Wong   September 20,   2023


Asian Health Services Honors Three Individuals

Asian Health Services held its first in-person gala since 2019 at this year’s 49th annual Resilience Rising Gala,  last week, September 16, at Oakland Marriott City Center.  This year’s honorees represented the theme of resilience, courage, and unity of our diverse Asian American communities. It was a very successful event according to the 700 supporters who jammed the Oakland Marriott Hotel.  For such a large crowd, I was happy to see that everyone had to produce a negative covid test result when they checked in, and if not available, then there was a room with volunteers administering the test so no one would be turned away.



I remember Asian Health Services started in 1974 as a one-room clinic in Oakland Chinatown staffed completely by student volunteers and community activists. My mother at age 90,  active on the Oakland Commission for Seniors, became an active supporter of this new organization to serve the community’s health needs under Kathleen Lim Ko.  Currently, AHS provides approximately 150,000 medical, dental, behavioral health, and specialty mental health visits annually through its 12 clinics, and is a nationally recognized comprehensive community health center model for serving a primarily low-income, limited English-speaking population, across Alameda County, California in English and 12 Asian languages. Centered in the middle of Oakland’s Chinatown with two large buildings, it provides low cost and non paying medical attention to this community.


The Resilience Rising Gala, led by Carolyn Kiang, Chair, alongside her husband, Henry Kiang, and Sharon Seto, Honorary Chair, was  well run along with  Gala committee members  Jennifer Chang, Vivan Chen, Jennifer Cheng Lo, Stella Dai, Ernestine Fu, Julia Kung, Victoria Lin, Camden Louie, Melanie Seto, Regina Venzon, Jessie Zeng, and Gloria Zhu. MC valiantly trying to keep 700 attendees attention was Mike Inouye and it was an overwhelming task for anyone , including professional auctioneer Franco Finn. Entertainer this year was Lee Herrik, 10th California Poet Laureate. As always, the program ran much too long with a packed program and long speeches which is often the case with most fundraising events.


This year’s honorees were recognized for their efforts and work in empowering underserved and underrepresented communities and promoting healing and advancement for the greater good.  Their stories represented the belief of shared humanity, hope, and belonging. This year’s honorees at this gala for AHS were:

Kristi Yamaguchi, a two-time World Champion and U.S. National Champion figure skater, who captured the gold medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics. Following a long and successful professional figure skating career, Yamaguchi founded a nonprofit, Always Dream, whose mission focuses on early literacy through family engagement with children and families in California and Hawai’i. She is also a New York Times Best-Selling author of children’s books. During the pandemic, Yamaguchi used her platform to speak against hate during the rise of anti-Asian hate and violence. Kristi Yamaguchi received  the Community Impact award.


Brandon Tsay, a community hero, demonstrated remarkable courage when he disarmed the Monterey Park, California mass shooter during Lunar New Year’s celebrations.  His heroism was recognized by many, including US Representative Judy Chu, California Governor Gavin Newsom, the US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, the US Vice President Kamala Harris, and by the 118th US Congress, and at President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address.  Since then, he has used his platform to promote and support healing amongst communities.   Tsay  received the Community Hero award.


Lu Zhang, Founder and Managing Partner of Fusion Fund, is empowering women entrepreneurship in technology by stimulating innovation and social good. At the age of 21, she built a medical device company for Type II Diabetes diagnosis, which was acquired by a leading public medical device company, when she was 25.  As a renowned Silicon Valley-based investor, she has used her platform to support women entrepreneurs, advocate for gender-equality through technological innovation, and invest in health care innovations that improve lives. Zhang received the Healthcare Innovation Award.


For more information on how you can support this very worthwhile agency serving the Asian community of Oakland and the Greater Bay Area, go to: https://asianhealthservices.org/  As with any non profit agency, your donation is tax deductible and all proceeds will be going to establish a mobile dental unit to go into the community to more easily serve those in need.






Although  there were at least 24 steep stairs to climb to the second floor of the Far East Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown, that didn’t deter over 300 people from coming to congratulate the Gum Moon Asian Women’s Recourse Center at its annual benefit fundraising luncheon on September 16.  As Director Gloria Tan told the audience, “Gum Moon Women’s Resident was founded in 1868 to rescue Chinese girls who had been sold into slavery and prostitution. To meet other evolving needs of its Chinatown target population, Gum Moon directed its attention to the care and education of abandoned Chinese girls and babies in the late 1800s. In 1984 Gum Moon’s leaders reached out to a wider segment of the community in its provision of social and educational services. By the late 1990s Gum Moon began offering transitional housing to women in need.”


Board President Selina Soo Lim added, “Today Gum Moon/Asian Women’s Resource Center offers educational programs and services which include Affordable housing for low income women, transitional housing and programming for women survivors of abuse, parent-child interactive groups, After school programming, and many other services including information and referral support. In essence Gum Moon/AWRC and the Asian Family Support Centers serve more than 5500 women, children and their families each year.”


Although the group’s goals and purposes for its annual event are serious, its very capable MCs  Doris Grover and Jan Yanehiro  are pros at keeping the program going at a fast pace so people can have more time to enjoy the bountiful lunch served by Far East Restaurant staff.   The program started with a bang when a miniature dragon stepped onto the main stage, manned by 6-7 year olds. There’s nothing better than getting the audience’s attention when little children come out and sing/danced their hearts off in front of proud mommies and daddies.  Their delightful singing was a good forerunner when the serious part of the program began with the announcing of the three honorees.


This year’s theme was WOMEN MAKING A DIFFERENCE and unabashedly I am proud have been chosen as one of the honored women for my work as volunteering for half a dozen non profit organizations,  by serving on their Boards, and as the co-founding member of the Chi Am Circle, a 55 year old Asian American women’s club, and also founding the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project,  which had as their goal project to build a Museum of Chinese American History in Santa Clara Valley. Thank you Board member Mina Li for presenting a beautiful crystal desk plaque  for this honor and a lovely bouquet of flowers.


Receiving the 2023 Carol Lee Award was Kathrine Kim, a remarkable volunteer woman who has dedicated her life to service advocacy and community engagement. Following a successful 36 year career as a pharmacist  with Kaiser medical group, she became involved with the United Women in Faith by  taking a leadership role . Notably as a Board member, she shared stories of Gum Moon, effectively engaging the Korean American community and inspiring volunteer participation. Her involvement with domestic violence advocacy groups for over two decades highlights her commitment to social justice and support for vulnerable women.


The 2023 Honorary award of outstanding Asian woman was awarded to Mona Lisa Yuchengco, a prominent figure known for her contributions to the Filipino-American community and her involvement in various charitable initiatives. She is the founder of Philippine International Aid, a non profit established in 1986 that sends 2500 disadvantaged children to school in the Philippines every year. Yuchengco’ talents followed her passion for filmmaking with the producing of 3 documentaries which have received honors and awards. Mona Lisa’s dedication to storytelling and community involvement has made her an influential figure within the Filipino American community and beyond.


Proof that Gum Moon has established itself through its long history as a very important part of the Chinese community in San Francisco was the fact that The San Francisco Mayor London Breed made an appearance to personally present  each honoree woman with a certificate from her office.  Likewise District Attorney Breed Jenkins congratulated the three honorees with a certificate from her office.  Both expressed admiration for the work that Gum Moon does for needy women and children and as always, pledged to continue working to make San Francisco the safe city it once was.


To further enlighten the audience, two performers from the Circus Modern performance collective transformed the stage with  one woman performing fearless maneuvers with an large open metal hoop high  above the ground in smooth graceful movements.  Another fellow performed efficiently with two plastic curved pieces which he made into many unique forms with a slight of the hand.  This was a nice  reprieve from the seriousness of the Honoree presentations while letting the audience enjoy a large banquet meal lunch to satisfy anyone’s palate.


It was a busy day for these two well respected service organizations which are so important to the Asian communities in both San Francisco and Oakland.  I congratulate them both on the worthy work they do for the community and should be receiving much deserved honors themselves.


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