BLOG: One call to make a difference

By Assunta Ng

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Tan Tho Tien (left), owner of House of Hong Restaurant and Tony Au (right), captain of the International Dance Team (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Tan Tho Tien wanted to donate a dinner to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims at his restaurant, the House of Hong. The only condition he set for Tony Au, captain of the International Dance Team, was that it had to be organized within seven days, by Nov. 8.
Tan had scheduled a trip and wanted it to happen before he left.

Au said yes. And that yes meant that everything had to be accomplished quickly and deliberately. There was only enough time for one meeting to get everything done, but the result was $33,000 in donations by 380 guests and volunteers, including Lt. Gov. Brad Owen. What contributed to this success?

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From left: Emcee Hao Lam, Kasper Lee and Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Chinatown relief movement unknown to outsiders

There isn’t really a formal Chinatown organization to support disaster relief. But an army for such an organization has existed in the community for over a decade. This group is made up of big and small donors who have fundraised for the American Red Cross during Hurricane Katrina, Chinese earthquakes, tsunamis, and more.

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Jerry Lee (left) and Kasper Lee (right) during the live auction (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

This army doesn’t even have a name or title. They don’t need credit. They just respond whenever there is a need.

Many sold out community events I have attended have had no one show up, but Chinatown charitable dinners always enjoy the backing of over 20 family and fraternal organizations with great hearts that are willing to participate at a reasonable price. Each table last Thursday cost $250. The community has become so sophisticated that Au and Jimmy Leong were able to sell over 30 tables in only five days. Proceeds from the dinner alone totaled over $7,000.

The organizers set a wonderful giving example. Other big donors consisted of the most generous couple that donated $4,000. That inspired elderly and low-income residents to contribute what they could.

From nothing to something

An e-mail arrived in my inbox a day before I boarded a flight home from Hong Kong.

“Tony would like to hear your advice on how to raise more money and see if you are able to help out when you return,” my editor wrote.

Although I wasn’t prepared to work after the election, I couldn’t say no to the community doing charitable things.

I knew the organizers were waiting for me to develop a program.

“What auction items do you have?” I asked Au.

“None, we don’t have time,” he said.

“Call donors now,” I said.

That conversation happened 24 hours before the event, when we had only one item Jerry Lee had offered to donate, a large autographed photo and cap of a Seattle Sonics basketball legend.

So we brainstormed and secured another jackpot: Dinner for six with Lt. Gov. Brad Owen at his home. That sold for $2,000. The six auction items we put together in one day netted $5,000.

Buddha is the key to benefit dinners

“Buddha,” said Au, naming Jerry Lee one for his philanthropy. Lee brought friends who also donated to the cause.

The success of the Hurricane Sandy dinner depended on the presence of many “Buddhas” showing up. One such table was the vegetarian table. Mr. and Mrs. Victor Young donated $4,000. Mei Rae Chiu bid $400 for a night at the Seattle Sheraton and then donated the item back to the cause. Lisa Lam followed with over $1,300 in donations.

There weren’t any bid cards. These folks just raised their hand to support the cause.

Why help?

“We have to help Sandy’s victims,” said Tan. “House of Hong did benefits for many disasters, including China’s earthquake, Japan’s tsunami, and Katrina. We have to help our own. We live in America, our future generations can only identify with America.

America gives us a lot and we have to give back.”  (end)

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