On Thursday, February 20, 2014, the Patrons and Members of the Builder’s and Foundation Clubs of the “Home Away from Home” Building Fund were treated to a gala dinner at the new Tonari Gumi centre. Set up as a four star restaurant, Chef Hitoshi Terazaki, former chef to the Canadian Ambassador in Tokyo, assisted by Tonari Gumi volunteers, prepared a memorable dinner to demonstrate Tonari Gumi’s appreciation to the major donors who helped to purchase and renovate the new Tonari Gumi Seniors’ Drop-In and Community Outreach Centre at 42 West 8th Avenue in Vancouver.
MC’d by Michael Sakamoto and Heidi Hamano, both members of the Tonari Gumi Board of Directors, and assisted by Joji Kumagai, Tonari Gumi Chair, and Gary Matson, President of the Greater Vancouver JCCA, all those assembled were able to celebrate the amazing achievement of creating a $3.6 million facility for the Japanese Canadian community in the central part of Vancouver, a city with the most expensive real estate in Canada. Among those in attendance were Ms. Eiko Kusumoto and her partner, Allan Murota, representing the Kusumoto Family; Takeo Yamashiro, Kikko Lurana Tasaka and Kay Fujishima, representing the Roger Watanaka bequest; Mr. Andrew Saxton, MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and representing the Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification, and many others who have made a significant contribution to creating this landmark new facility.
Dinner guests were also favoured by a koto duet performed by well-known Nikkei artists, Kozue Matsumoto and Yuriko Nariya, and classical Japanese dance performances by well-known dancer, Akemi Komori, and by Cherl Houkawa and Cathy Nishikawa.
Derek Iwanaka, Chair of the Joint Tonari Gumi & JCCA Building Fund Committee, outlined how we were able to raise the funds necessary to purchase and renovate the building to create this beautiful new facility for the community. Starting with the early interest shown by Tom Kusumoto to renovate and expand the facilities where his mother had experienced many enjoyable activities, through to the decision to purchase 42 West 8th Ave. and create a brand new facility that would be easily accessible via public transit and open to those in wheelchairs and walkers to make maximum use of the building. Heidi Hamano, Tonari Gumi Vice Chair, presented lifetime Tonari Gumi memberships to the major patrons and donors, enabling them to keep in close touch with how Tonari Gumi will be reaching out to help seniors and others in the community.
David Iwaasa, Tonari Gumi Executive Director, emphasized that while we are extremely appreciative of the contributions made by the major donors, we also need to remember the many hundreds of individuals who made small donations, often at great sacrifice. Others also helped through donations in-kind, such as Fujitec Canada Inc.; Merit Kitchens; Mr. Sam Iwase; Henry Wakabayashi, Tak Uegaki and Hiro Kamoshita; and so many others. Most importantly, it was pointed out that all of those who worked and volunteered at Tonari Gumi were vital in creating the positive image that Tonari Gumi has of caring for those in need and reaching out to help seniors and others needing help. Without this tradition of caring and compassion, people would not have gone out of their way to contribute and do what they could to ensure Tonari Gumi continued to grow and expand. The Tonari Gumi of today is the result of more than 40 years of dedicated service by many hundreds within the community.