Giving to Keep Our Stories Alive

Ron Chew’s first job, when he was 13, was working as a bus boy at a Chinese restaurant in Seattle’s China Town. The waiters would share their tips with him and he would save these tips in a bank account. After his stint as bus boy, he went on to do many other things and forgot about his “tips” account … until many years later, when he became Executive Director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum (WLAM).

Under his leadership, the WLAM made the jump from a grassroots organization/museum to its current presence as the world class, vibrant Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. And it started with Ron’s “tips” account which, over the years, had grown to $10,000 (bank interest was much higher than it is today).

People would ask him how he, as a single father of two small children, could give so much on his meager museum salary. $10,000 is a lot of money to donate to any cause, even those we believe in. But Ron had a vision of a museum that would “keep our stories going.” He donated his $10,000. In retrospect, he suspects that he hadn’t touched his tip money all those years because he felt that it didn’t really belong to him. It belonged to the community of immigrants and Asian Americans who had tipped him so generously when he was a struggling bus boy. Now it was time to give back to that community.

The WLAM’s substantial expansion included a successful $23 million capital campaign that enabled them to acquire and renovate an historic building for the permanent home of their museum. This is what the Oregon Nikkei Endowment wants to do. Its museum, the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, created in 2004, needs a larger facility to house its many exhibits and growing artifact collections to better preserve and tell our community’s stories.

How much are you willing to give to keep our stories alive?

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Contact: Lynn Longfellow, Executive Director Oregon Nikkei Endowment, 121 NW 2nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97209, (503) 224-1458

Today is Giving Tuesday, the global movement that demonstrates the power of giving back. Please consider giving time, effort and/or money to the organizations and causes that matter most to you.