Miss Optimist Tori Nishinaka-Leon (left) and JAO President Eileen Yoshimura at the 62nd installation luncheon on Sept. 27. Yoshimura is in costume, a tradition of JAO to dress the incoming president.

GARDENA — The Japanese American Optimist Club (JAO) held its 62nd annual installation on Sept. 27 at the Happa Grill in Gardena.

Past Optimist International Lt. Gov. Chuy Esparza retired outgoing President Joyce Nakashima and turned the gavel over to incoming President Eileen Yoshimura and her board. 2014 Nisei Week Queen Tori Nishinaka-Leon was introduced as JAO’s Miss Optimist for 2015-2016.

Yoshimura has been a JAO member since 2005 and recently retired from the Port of Los Angeles. Joined by 70 JAO members, friends, and family, Yoshimura accepted the presidency. In the coming year, her goals are to develop a strategic plan, revamp member activities, continue using social media, and lay the groundwork for a high school-level service group in the following year.

With a strong commitment to service, the goals are aimed at updating the club’s programs, increasing membership, and getting young professional adults in the community to become involved, as the current membership is aging.

Founded in 1954, JAO has been serving the Los Angeles community through a variety of service projects focused on “bringing out the best in kids.” Among its largest youth programs is the JAO Girls Basketball League, with over 1,200 participants annually. The club also sponsors a Jr. Optimist Club at the Los Angeles Elementary School. For more information, visit the JAO website at www.jaoptimist.org.

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