Crisis Helpline Worker Retires After 29 Years of Service

Former LTSC Social Services Director Yasuko Sakamoto (middle) and former LTSC Executive Director Bill Watanabe (right) present a gift from LTSC’s Social Services staff to Mrs. Kim (left).

In 1985, a tragic event shook the Southern California Nikkei community. A monolingual Japanese-speaking woman, at the end of her rope, walked into the waters off Santa Monica with two infant children in tow. The mother survived, but her children drowned.

Convinced the incident could have been avoided had the mother possessed a proper support system, members of the Japanese American community decided to create a crisis hotline to assist callers facing difficult times.

With support from Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), the Nikkei Helpline (NHL) launched a few years later. Anna Kim — respectfully referred to as “Mrs. Kim” — later became the program’s coordinator. After nearly three decades of offering lifelines to Japanese- and Korean-speaking callers struggling with issues related to financial woes, relationship crises, immigration, education, illness and other emergencies, Mrs. Kim announced her decision to retire last month.

At a Little Tokyo gathering to celebrate Mrs. Kim’s contributions, friends and colleagues heaped praise on a tireless community worker whose wisdom and selfless dedication allowed her to touch numerous lives.

“Mrs. Kim’s Japanese and her knowledge of kanji are actually as good or superior to many native born Japanese, which … is kind of amazing because she didn’t actually grow up in Japan,” said former LTSC Executiv