West Covina Mayor James Toma (right) installs the 2016 JCCSC officers.
By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
ALHAMBRA — The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California installed its first female president and recognized two individuals and an organization for outstanding community service during its New Year’s luncheon on Jan. 31 at Almansor Court in Alhambra.
The new president is Kitty Sankey, a Tokyo-born Sansei, who has also served as senior vice president, vice president, secretary and board member as well as positions with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Japanese American Treaty Centennial Fund. She is the granddaughter of Gongoro Nakamura, JCCSC’s third president.
She is vice president of the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California, Japanese American Optimist Club, and Downtown Los Angeles JACL, and a member of the Okinawa Association of America’s Scholarship Committee.
The Community Organization Recognition Award went to the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center in West Covina.
The Nikkei Spirit Award went to Aiko “June” Kawaratani of Rafu Bussan and the late community leader John “JT” Tamaki.
Attendees drink a toast to the Year of the Monkey.
Opening remarks were made by JCCSC Vice President Howard Miyoshi, who asked for a moment of silence for members who have passed since the last luncheon.
West Covina Mayor James Toma installed the 2016 officers, thanked outgoing president Yoshio “Lee” Aoki for his service, and congratulated Sankey. “I just met Kitty relatively recently, but I know she’s a very energetic, dynamic leader and she will do a wonderful job as the new president,” he said. “You’re obviously in very good hands.”
Regarding ESGVJCC, Toma said, “I’m very familiar with the wonderful things they’ve done, including most recently working with the consul general of Japan on … bringing the Special Olympics delegation from Team Japan to West Covina, and we could not have done that without their help.
Consul General Harry Horinouchi gives a kanji lesson.
“The city is also working together with them on our annual student exchange program, and this year we’re sending a delegation, including myself and the other council members, to our sister city Ohtawara in Japan in August.”
Sankey gave special thanks to JCCSC members for their efforts. “We’ve worked with you … at the year-end charity drive, where we raised funds for two organizations, Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches … and East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center … We worked with you on Jan. 1 at the Oshogatsu or New Year’s in Little Tokyo, where 11,000 visitors came to the three entertainment venues and they stayed for the day, shopping and eating in Little Tokyo.”
She invited members to participate in upcoming events, including a luncheon for local Kunsho recipients on July 10; the JATCF Scholarship presentation to high school students on July 30; and the 18th Prime Minister Golf Tournament on Aug. 29.
“Continue also to support us as we find host families for Ashinaga students who will be visiting from Japan in August,” Sankey said. “These students have lost either one or both parents through death or permanent disability. They will be staying with host families and will be volunteering at Keiro and touring Southern California …
Newly installed JCCSC President Kitty Sankey thanks three-term president Yoshio Lee Aoki for his service.
“We hope that you will also work with us on our other community and business events throughout the year, including the Japan Fair … Finally, welcome us as we meet with you to discuss ways in which we can work collaboratively in the community and for the community.”
Aoki, who served as president for three years, also thanked the members, calling them “the backbone of the chamber … Without your support and guidance, the chamber … will not be where we want it to be.”
He said of his successor, “She may look small. Don’t let her appearance fool you. She’s a tiger. If she does come and ask for your support, please help.”
Presenting a plaque to Aoki, Sankey said, “We want to thank you for your three years of service. You worked very hard on behalf of the JCCCSC and on behalf of the community … I want to thank you for opportunities that you gave to all of us.”
Ellen Endo, president of the Little Tokyo Business Association.
Ellen Endo, president of the Little Tokyo Business Association, delivered greetings and noted that Aoki is an active member of her organization as well. “He really is the one who connected JCCSC and LTBA … He’s still with our organization. We’re going to make use of him.”
George Mori, the new president of Nanka Kenjinkai Kyogikai (Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California), said change is also happening in his organization: “I’m probably the first English-speaking president and in fact, we now have three English-speaking vice presidents in this year’s cabinet … We are bilingual now … We want to encourage young people and bridge the gap a little bit.”