By JORDAN IKEDA, Rafu Shimpo
GARDENA — After two decades working with residents of the South Bay, the Little Tokyo Service Center determined it was time to set up shop in the 310.
On Friday, the LTSC hosted an open house at its newest location — the second floor of the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute.
“This is a really great opportunity,” said Dean Matsubayashi, executive director of LTSC. “For us, the growing Nisei and Shin-Issei senior populations are an emerging issue. These folks desire to live independently for as long as possible. So, LTSC felt it necessary to make sure that we were closer to where we can assist them. We also want to work with the community to figure out new and innovative solutions for how seniors can be served and how they can live.”
Matsubayashi made sure to note that this expansion would not have been possible without the support of two organizations. NeighborWorks America, an organization focused on strengthening communities by creating opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, provided a generous grant to LTSC that allowed for them to expand their services. And, of course, the Gardena Valley JCI, headed by Executive Director Alison Kochiyama, opened its doors and provided LTSC an ideal location to set up.
The LTSC and JCI supplement each other as partners. The LTSC is able to provide bilingual services and the JCI provides the office space.
“The purpose of opening the office is to expand our service and outreach to diverse groups of Nikkei communities in the South Bay, especially the Japanese-speaking communities in South Bay that now constitute more than half of the Japanese population,” said Hiroko Higuchi, community engagement coordinator for the South Bay Office. “They were underserved and underrepresented in the community.”
Higuchi has been tasked with a comprehensive needs assessment of the Nikkei communities that reside in the South Bay by targeting the social service sector, small businesses, sports leagues, as well as senior, civic engagement, and parenting issues.
Yoshiko Morohoshi and Hisano Magome are two Shin-Issei seniors that live in the area and are thankful for the closer location. “I sometimes went to the LTSC in Little Tokyo, but it is too far,” said Magome. “So, I am very glad that there is an option here.”
LTSC has provided bilingual and bicultural social services in Little Tokyo and throughout Los Angeles County for the past 35 years. Services include: Information and referral; caregiver resources; counseling; support groups; and assistance and advocacy in applying for Social Security, Medicare, Medi-Cal, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and public benefits for children and families.
For more information, visit www.LTSC.org or call (310) 819-8659. GVJCI is located at 1964 W. 162nd St., Gardena, CA 90247.