JAO President-Elect Kevin Shimabukuro and JAO girls basketball players raising funds for Japan relief.

Kevin Shimabukuro has been named the 60th president of the Japanese American Optimists. 

A member of JAO since 2011, he currently resides in Torrance and is the production supervisor for King’s Hawaiian Bakery. Also a volunteer member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team, Shimabukuro places community service as a high priority. 

In his own words, Shimabukuro joined JAO because “I enjoy helping the kids. I also like being around JAO members – they are all great people!”

JAO was formed in 1954 to assist the Japanese American community and help its children live successful and happy lives. Today, while JAO continues to service its community, it is also helping to meet the needs of the youth in communities worldwide As one of the clubs under Optimist International, JAO conducts service projects aimed at providing a helping hand to youth such as annual essay and oratorical contests, and Halloween, Career Day and Christmas events for local elementary school children.

At its annual Christmas party, all children in attendance receive a gift from “Santa.” JAO also supports a girls’ basketball program, bingo for seniors, the Optimist Youth Home, and Pacific Asian Counseling Services (PACS). Most recently, JAO members held a backpack drive for PACS, providing supplies to youth to ready them for the new school year.

All are invited to attend the JAO installation, which will take place on Sunday, Sept. 29, at 12 p.m. in the Garden Room of the Japanese American Community and Cultural Center, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo. Cost is $40 per person (includes lunch). To RSVP, contact Steve Awakuni at sawakuni@sbcglobal.net.

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  1. Hi — the correct email address for information and reservations is: sawakuni@sbcglobal.net.

    Dr. Richard Watanabe will give us a snapshot of what life was like for the Nikkei community in 1954 when JAO was organized.

    Original founding member Kiyo Maruyama will be attending. Meet Kevin “Special K” Shimabukuro and Ms. JAO Jessica Kanai as they launch the 60th year of JAO service to the community.