On Saturday, November 23, 2013, the new building’s namesake, Yoneko Kusumoto, attended the grand opening in a wheelchair, accompanied by her daughter, Eiko Kusumoto. It was thanks to the generous contributions of her son, Tom Kusumoto, that the new building which will house Tonari Gumi’s Seniors Drop-In and Community Outreach Centre was purchased. Then, courtesy of the Greater Vancouver JCCA, the estate of Roger Watanaka, the federal department of Western Economic Diversification and the many hundreds of donations made by individuals, groups and companies throughout the community, the renovations necessary to convert the former warehouse into a new community centre were finally achieved.
Saturday, November 23rd became a gala day for Tonari Gumi, the JCCA and the entire Japanese Canadian community as some 200 individuals gathered at the new location at 42 West 8th Avenue in Vancouver for a donors’ reception, opening ceremonies and a public open house. Highlighting the special guests in attendance were Mr. Seiji Okada, Consul General of Japan; Mr. Andrew Saxton, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and MP for North Vancouver; Mr. Rocky Ozaki, Tom Kusumoto’s nephew; Mr. Kim Fiveldsal, representing the general contractor; Mr. Derek Iwanaka, chair of the “Home Away from Home” Building Fund; Mr. Gary Matson, JCCA president and Mr. Joji Kumagai, Tonari Gumi Chair. During the reception, Derek Iwanaka also recognized some of the many others who had contributed significantly to the completion of this new facility, in particular, he singled out Henry Wakabayashi and Leslay Fugeta as having done a great deal to getting to this stage. Some companies that deserved recognition were Merit Kitchens and Fujitec who provided most of the cabinets in the new building and helped with the elevator.
With their booming drums, Chibi Taiko signaled the beginning of the opening ceremonies on the outside of the new building at 2:15 pm. The first order of the event was the unveiling of a memorial plaque placed on a rock in the Japanese rock garden at the front of the building by Yoneko Kusumoto assisted by her daughter, Eiko Kusumoto, and other members of the family. The plaque designated the name of the new building as the “Yoneko Kusumoto Building”. Then everyone gathered for the traditional ribbon cutting which included many of the individuals who played an important role in completing this new centre.
The open house that followed showcased the many new features of the building: the calming and serene rock garden at the front, the beautiful front lounge with its circular light feature in the ceiling, the shoji-look walls and doors, the spacious multi-purpose hall, the new 80” flat screen, a new commercial kitchen with a walk-in freezer, new washrooms, the new “Roger Watanaka Library” on the second floor, and many other features that will enhance the many activities and events which will now take place at this new centre. During the month of December, all Tonari Gumi programs are free of charge (except our Monday and Friday lunches which are still a great bargain) to encourage everyone to come and see what they are like. For more information on events and programs and reserve your place in our various programs, please check the Tonari Gumi calendar and/or call Tonari Gumi at (604) 687-2172. We’re looking forward to welcoming you to Tonari Gumi very soon.