LTSC social workers with certificates received from Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi. Front row, from left: Jun Hori, Akiko Takeda, Jessica Kanai, Amy Phillips (director of senior services) and Mike Murase; second row, from left: Jade Yamada, Hiroko Umeda, Yasuko Sakamoto (director of social services), Kiyoko Kaneda, Hidemi Mousavi, Ayumi Nagata, Vivian Lee, Gilda Hernandez, Yusuke Ninomiya and Hi-Woo Lee; (back row, from left: Joon Suh, Nancy Alcaraz and Hongsun Kim.

Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) has been providing social services for the past 34 years.

In the beginning, most of the clients were Issei seniors living in Little Tokyo who needed assistance and interpretation services to apply for government benefits or to access other services in the community. Since then, LTSC’s Social Services Department grew and diversified to include clients of all ages from many communities in Los Angeles.

With a staff of 17 social workers who speak English, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin and Spanish, the agency provides information and referral, case management services, counseling and therapy, as well as community education programs for caregivers, parents and others.

At a luncheon held in March in their honor, LTSC Board President Alan Nishio said, “Social work is a client-centered profession in which clients are often socially isolated or are not at their best when they need help from a social worker. Clients are not likely to talk publicly about the assistance they receive from their caseworkers and therapists. As a result, social workers get very little recognition for the work they do, and they don’t expect it.

“Its important to recognize and appreciate the work they do on a day-to-day basis.”

Executive Director Dean Matsubayashi added, “We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated and compassionate group of social workers at LTSC. They have assisted thousands of people, not only in Little Tokyo, but in the broader Nikkei community throughout Los Angeles County.”

Bill Watanabe, former executive director of LTSC, provided a historical perspective to the gathering, reminding the social workers that they are carrying on the tradition of many people who cared for others in their community. He recounted how Shonien (a Japanese children’s home) evolved from the social work begun in 1912 by Rokuichi Kusumoto of the Japanese Humane Society of Los Angeles.

Watanabe said, “When there was no longer a need for Shonien, it became Japanese American Community Services of Southern California (JACS), which provided the very first grant in the early years of LTSC. So there is a continuing thread to the social workers in the Nikkei community today.”

“It was not always easy for Asian American and other minority students to prevail in the field of social work. At UCLA, it was a struggle to incorporate and fight for the diverse needs of minority communities and to fight for culturally sensitive perspectives,” concluded UCLA faculty member Jane Kurohara, MSW.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) presented the LTSC social workers with individual certificates of recognition stating in part, “In appreciation of your outstanding dedication in providing culturally sensitive services to our community, and in recognition of your commitment to social justice and ensuring that all of our citizens have access to basic needs.”

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