Tonari Gumi and Greater Vancouver JCCA “Home Away From Home” Building Fund Drive is Launched!!!

“Home Away From Home” is the motto for the Greater Vancouver JCCA and Tonari Gumi’s $650,000 joint building fund drive which will be launched during the August 2012 Powell Street Festival.  While the overall budget for Tonari Gumi’s new senior’s drop-in and community outreach centre at 42 West 8th Avenue in Vancouver is estimated at about $3.4 million, thanks to the generosity of the Tom Kusumoto Family, the Greater Vancouver JCCA and the late Roger Watanaka, some 80% of that amount or $2.75 million has already been secured.  Nevertheless, this still leaves some $650,000 to be raised to fully complete the new facility so that it can truly become the new “home away from home” for our seniors and others requiring assistance within the Japanese Canadian community in the Lower Mainland.

Both the JCCA and Tonari Gumi came into existence because there was a need within the community.  In 1953, not long after the last of the war-time restrictions on the movement of Japanese Canadians were rescinded and some of those who had been unjustly removed from the west coast began to trickle back, a small group of issei and Nisei volunteers organized the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens Association (GVJCCA) in order to rebuild the community and to ensure that the racial discrimination which had resulted in the officially sanctioned destruction of the Japanese Canadian community in 1942 did not happen again.

In the early 1970’s, some of the now second and third generation Japanese Canadians within the community, coupled with some newly immigrated from Japan, saw a need to provide assistance to Japanese Canadian seniors.  One of the dreams of Jun Hamada, the founder of Tonari Gumi  was to create a welcoming place where Japanese Canadian seniors were encouraged to drop-in and have a “home away from home”.  In 1975, some rented space at 573 East Hastings Street became Tonari Gumi’s first home.  Then in 1986, Tonari Gumi moved to 376 Powell Street in order to be close to Sakura-so, a senior’s apartment for Japanese Canadians.  Then in 2000, the GVJCCA leased its building at 511 East Broadway to Tonari Gumi at a reduced rent to enable Tonari Gumi to continue its work with Japanese Canadian seniors and others requiring assistance within the community.  On February 28, 2012, thanks to the Tom Kusumoto family, Tonari Gumi was able to purchase a three-storey building at 42 West 8th Avenue in Vancouver.  In further support, the GVJCCA agreed to contribute the proceeds of the sale of its current building at 511 East Broadway and coupled with a bequest from a long-time former member of Tonari Gumi, Roger Watanaka, we have begun the extensive renovations necessary to transform 42 West 8th Avenue into a new drop-in and community centre.

Feb. 25, 2012 Celebrating receipt of Tom Kusumoto & Family Donation for New Building

However, of the funds required to complete this project, an additional $650,000 remains to be raised.  To this end, members of the GVJCCA and Tonari Gumi have joined together to launch the “Home Away from Home” Building Fund Drive.  Those contributing $25,000 or more will be inducted into the “Home Away from Home” Builders Club.  Each inductee will be recognized with an individual plaque containing their family, company or organization crest to be displayed in a prominent location within the new facility.  Similarly, those contributing $10,000 or more will be inducted into the “Home Away from Home” Foundation Club.  Their names will also be included in a plaque which will be displayed in the newly renovated building.  Both Club members will receive life-time memberships in both Tonari Gumi and the GVJCCA and receive an invitation to a special donor’s recognition dinner.

In addition, in order to provide an opportunity for others to make smaller donations and still be able to contribute in a very concrete way, three specific funds have been created:  the Kitchen Fund, the Elevator Fund and the Lounge Fund.  Contributions to the Kitchen Fund of $5,000 or more will be recognized on a plaque in the new kitchen facility.  Contributions to the Elevator Fund of $1,000 or more will be recognized on a plaque in or adjacent to the new elevator.  Contributions to the Lounge Fund of $500 or more will be recognized on a plaque within the new lounge area of the renovated building.  Contributors to each of these designated funds will have the satisfaction of knowing that they have made a direct contribution towards the construction of an important area of the new building.

A tax-deduction donation receipt will be issued by Tonari Gumi for any of the above contributions in accordance with Canada Revenue Agency rules and regulations.  Donations in-kind may also be accepted and recognized within the respective categories based on a fair-market value of the specific donations.  Pledges may also be accepted but prospective donors should consult with Tonari Gumi on the details.  Please join us by contacting David Iwaasa at Tonari Gumi, telephone 604-687-2172 or Shag Ando at telephone 604-922-9226. Both of us can be e-mailed at