LONG BEACH — Maderia Bruton and Eunice Sato of Long Beach were awarded the Kimi Sugiyama Service Award on Feb. 23 at Grace First Presbyterian Church, where they are beloved members.
Bruton is a busy, dynamic, well-organized person who never forgets the needs of others. Within the church, she is a tireless volunteer and former deacon. Fellowship and care are her watchwords. She hosts dinners and luncheons throughout the year. These events are always multicultural and intergenerational. She has great empathy for those who have lost their spouses, and many of her guests have precious few opportunities for socializing.
Her hospitality is also evident in the wider community, having sponsored visiting students from Japan. Currently, Bruton is a volunteer at the Long Beach VA Hospital, providing fellowship and assisting veterans. She invited a group of blind veterans to attend the church’s annual Thanksgiving meal. She truly personifies Christian hospitality, giving others a place to stay, a nourishing meal, and friendship.
Sato is well-known in the city of Long Beach. An energetic person, she has been a life-long volunteer, serving people in many capacities. Sato was a missionary in Japan, where she taught homemaking skills to young Japanese women in the post-war years. In Long Beach, she was a community volunteer in the schools and in her Methodist church. She maintains many friendships, even over decades.
Sato was elected to the Long Beach City Council in 1975 and served until 1986. During her tenure, she was the city’s first woman mayor from 1980 to 1982. She also served on numerous commissions and was the president of the Long Beach Council of Churches as well as the California Conference for Equality and Justice.
In 1992, Sato received the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christian and Jews, and in 1996, she received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette from the Japanese government.
The service award is named for Kimi Sugiyama, a pioneering member of the Japanese Presbyterian Church (now Grace First Presbyterian Church) in Long Beach, who was a pivotal figure in the early years of the Japanese American community in the Long Beach area. In the 1920s, Sugiyama was a volunteer translator and committed advocate for labor and human rights of Japanese workers who had little or no understanding of the English language or American labor rights.
During internment and after the war, she volunteered her time and talents to serve others, helping to rebuild and maintain the Japanese American community in Long Beach. In 1988, the Japanese government, in recognition of her work, awarded Sugiyama its highest honor, the Kunsho Award, the Order of the Sacred Treasure with Silver Rays.
Her children established the Kimi Sugiyama Human Service Award at Grace First Presbyterian Church in 2004. It is presented annually to a person in the community in recognition of his or her outstanding creativity and self-sacrifice in extending God’s love to others.