Great Partnership with Swords to Plowshares!

by Rev. Norman Fong

November 25, 2019

norman fong

My father was 15 years old at the time when he went through Angel Island. He didn’t want to talk much about that history, but it was a terrible place to be in, especially as someone so young. My dad worked so hard in many various jobs like in restaurants, a grocery store, as a farm worker, a janitor… Looking back, I am now so proud of him for everything he did even though as I grew up, it meant not seeing him often. When WWII happened, he joined the Army Air Corps and told me how he faced racism during World War II and how he worked with many in Chinatown to get supplies for the China relief effort. I didn’t know what he went through in the early 1900’s through World War II as a Chinese American. All because of the racist Chinese Exclusion Act. My Father like most Asians who served, received no medal or recognition as a veteran. It wasn’t until 2018 that the Chinese who served finally got recognized and it was so amazing to know my father was finally being honored for his service! It was thanks to the efforts of the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project which is a program of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance that the Chinese American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act was signed into effect. It’s so great that they’re finally recognized as American heroes!

norman fong mom dad

norman fong dad world war 2 veteran ii

china war relief

army unit

Veterans have hard times after returning home, either from trauma or the inability to readjust to normal life, and thanks to organizations like Swords to Plowshares, veterans are being helped! They offer health services, housing, and educational workshops for veterans. We need more of that around here! Did you know Ping Yuen was originally created as housing for Chinese American veterans of WWII? That was the first government funded housing in Chinatown, and it was for veterans! How great!

Today we have amazing organizations like Swords to Plowshares working with us - Chinatown CDC to create housing for both veterans and families. One of the newest additions to our portfolio is Edwin M. Lee Apartments! Located at 1150 3rd Street in the Mission Bay neighborhood, our new building will house 62 veterans and 56 low-income families with on-site supportive services. “This project is the first housing site in the city that will serve a dual purpose of housing both veterans and low-income families.” I think it’s so inspiring how we’ve developed these relationships with other groups that may seem VERY different from us but we all want the same things!

I believe it’s so important for Chinatown Community Development Center to build relationships with other organizations that may not be for the same population but ultimately, we all just want EVERYONE to have services and AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Everyone deserves a fair chance at life in San Francisco and our mission is the same! To serve and to enrich our community's lives. It’s very remarkable and we need MORE FUNDING which is why I’m so happy Prop A passed! That will help us all so much in collaborating in future projects... Thank you to all who voted YES ON A because that means you understand the DIRE NEED FOR FUNDING. Having partners like Swords to Plowshares working on projects with us enables us to fulfill our dreams of building more housing that encompasses SRO’s, seniors AND VETERANS, expand our services, and learn so much in the process about what our community needs at LARGE, not just in Chinatown!

michael blecker swords to plowshares

Michael Blecker, Executive Director of Swords to Plowshares graciously invited me to the Veterans Day Dinner on November 8! At the dinner they honored veterans and us as Chinatown CDC! I was so blessed to be able to witness it all. If my father were around, he would be so proud of the work Chinese veterans have done and of organizations like Swords to Plowshares that provide services to ALL veterans and that CHOOSE TO WORK with Chinatown to better the lives of everyone here! It truly is a GREAT PARTNERSHIP!

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on November 24, 2019

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