Blog: How the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation picks its honorees

“You should not honor this person,” one person said. “She is overexposed.” Just because others have honored her before is not a valid reason for the Northwest Asian Weekly to ignore her contributions.

In addition to established leaders, some who are chosen are being honored for the first time in the Asian community. The honorees will be given a Top Contributor of the Year award. It’s important to recognize not just the older and established leaders but also the upcoming ones.

On Dec. 3, at the House of Hong Restaurant, we will be honoring 11 special individuals and one organization. They have made a difference in both the mainstream community and communities of color.

Several folks asked us how we determine the award recipients. Many recipients have more than one accomplishment. But I will share with you what impresses us the most.

Ellen Abellera knows how to mobilize both the Filipino and Asian communities for important causes. She is ‘retired’ (though Ellen will never truly retire) and has an unbelievable amount of energy.

Vera Ing is the glue of the Asian community. Whatever she needs to do, she will do.

Yoshi Minegishi organizes Celebrate Asia! with the help of several Asian organizations.

Celebrate Asia! has arisen from nothing to become a world class East and West orchestral event and the pride of the Seattle Symphony. Yoshi doesn’t just take. In return, he goes out of his way to help other Asian ethnic communities, including the Chinese and Vietnamese.

Debadutta Dash understands the importance of reaching out to the Indian community. He creates many bridges for other Asian communities and the mainstream.

A longtime activist, Ruthann Kurose pushed hard in promoting diversity in education during her eight years as a Bellevue College trustee. Her passion in the political arena is immense. I saw her turn all the Hillary Clinton supporters into Obama fans skillfully, one by one, in 2007 and 2008.

Thach Nguyen, one of the youngest honorees, is the most ambitious in his social and entrepreneurial goals.

Sure, he wants to make money. But amazingly, he is also one of the few who is able to mix an aggressive agenda of giving back with his business agenda. He believes that networking is the key to success, which a lot of Asians need to learn.

Not many restaurateurs want the homeless to patronize their restaurants. But Chang Rae Lee spends his free time distributing free food coupons to the homeless so they may dine in his restaurant regularly.

In addition to working full time, Christine Umayam founded Child United and serves as its director. She does not just volunteer, she uses her leadership skills to make a crucial difference.

Even though Tacoma has a small Asian population, Theresa Pan Hosley, president of the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation, still appeals to everyone in seeking help to support her park project. It’s astonishing how she has inspired everyone in the community to get this project completed.

How exciting it is to see a woman, Susan Lee, as the first female president of the Korean American Chamber of Commerce. She has kept the chamber going tirelessly.

Ted Yamamura has a vision. When he was  president of the National Asian American for Professionals Association in the late 1980s, most members used it as a way to meet other singles. But he turned the culture around. He influenced the group to focus on community service. He did the same with Boeing’s Asian employees, inspiring them to support and work with the community. Founding the Executive Development Institute was one of the greatest testaments to his community spirit in helping Asian Americans become leaders and break the glass ceiling.

Please join us in honoring these outstanding leaders on Dec. 3. ♦

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