Chicago nonprofit offers senior and youth services

JASC. courtesy of JASC

JASC. courtesy of JASC

JASC (formerly known as Japanese American Service Committee) celebrated its 75th anniversary with an in-person gathering in May 2022. They postponed celebrating their actual anniversary in August 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Chicago-based organization, which was established in 1946, has evolved more to fit the Japanese American community’s needs.

“Early on, because the Issei were a large part of this new population here, they needed translation services, they needed English language classes, they needed some very basic social services…,” JASC Chief Executive Officer Michael Takada, a Sansei, told the Nichi Bei News in a phone interview. He added as the Issei and Nisei grew older, the organization transitioned to focus on adult day and home support services.

Originally named the Chicago Resettlers Committee, the organization’s founders wanted to help Japanese Americans “find housing, jobs and community” after they left the incarceration camps, Takada said. According to the 1940 Census, about 400 people of Japanese descent lived in Chicago and it later skyrocketed to about 20,000 people of Japanese ancestry, he added. Takada believes the organization renamed itself to the Japanese American Service Committee in the 1950s.

The JASC collects, catalogs and archives journal materials and photographs of people of Japanese descent who resettled and created new lives in Chicago after the war. It also partners with other organizations to offer ikebana and sumi-e classes.

The JASC offers an adult day service program, where individuals and families with aging adults can visit the center. They will be fed and can participate in socialization opportunities and activities Monday through Friday. Additionally, the JASC cares for “individuals who are in the early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Takada stated.

The organization provides 8,800 hours of service to about 200 older adults monthly.

The organization’s marquee offerings include the Holiday Delight and Kodomo Matsuri, a fall fundraiser that includes crafts, food and merchants and Tampopo Kai, a bilingual, bicultural program that teaches preschool children Japanese. The organization also has its Donguri Kai elementary school Japanese language program.

Despite its breadth of programs and offerings, the JASC has a “relatively small staff” of about 11 full-time employees, Takada said. Their part-time staff of just under 100 people mainly work in the home support system programs, where they go to people’s homes and take care of errands.

With several program offerings, the JASC closed on the purchase of a new permanent space this past December, Takada said. In late January, the organization met with their architect and design team to “fine tune the schematic design, trying to come to an agreement on what the actual physical layout of the new space will be…,” Takada noted. He added the construction process will take place primarily in 2023 and they hope to move into the new location in early 2024.

The organization currently assists about 20 people in their adult day service program, but the move to the new site will allow them to “more than double the number of clients that we’re working with on a daily basis in our adult day service program,” he said. Takada said 60 people could participate in the program in the new space.

The new facility, which will be about 30,000 square feet, will allow the organization to run programs concurrently, which does not happen in the current operating building because it lacks “good wall separation” and sound is a “challenge.” The building they are currently in was set up as a light manufacturing facility.

In addition to holding the concurrent programming, the JASC’s new facility will hold the numerous ethnic populations the nonprofit serves.

Takada said the JASC serves many different ethnic populations, including Americans of Japanese, Filipino, Chinese and Korean ancestry, as well as Black and white Americans. He said the organization serves about 45-50 percent Asian Americans, 35 percent of which are Japanese Americans.

“What I see us doing is really working with a lot of — especially the youth, so many…are mixed and so I’m thrilled that we exist to give youth and younger people like my kids a place to really feel connected and learn more and meet others who are of similar backgrounds,” Takada said.

The Japanese American Service Committee is located at 4427 N. Clark St., Chicago. Info: (773) 275-0097, jascinfo@jasc-chicago.org, https://www.jasc-chicago.org/.

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