‘A Place To Be Together As Family’

Traditional dancers perform during a past meeting of the South Pasadena Chinese-American Club. Photo courtesy of Bob Joe

YOU don’t have to be Chinese to be in the Chinese-American Club of South Pasadena.

You don’t even have to be Asian.

Just ask Sally Kilby, my colleague here at the Review, who is of Irish/English heritage. Some years ago, a member asked her to join and help with the newsletter, and she ended up serving on the board.

“I was actually president for 1 ½ years or so when someone couldn’t serve,’’ Kilby recalled. “I was on the board from 2007-16. I went out of town to attend my son’s med-school graduation and came back to learn I was president.’’

The club’s support and showcasing of Chinese culture will be on display this Sunday, when it co-sponsors the annual Moon Festival, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the South Pasadena Public Library, in the park and in the Community Room.

Outside entertainment and performances will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. there will be a kids corner and indoor activities.

The event is also sponsored by SinoUSArts, the City of South Pasadena, and the Friends of the Library.

The Chinese-American Club was started in 1989.

“There are so many aspects to the club. It provides learning and understanding of Chinese traditions,” club President Joseph Loo said.

Loo likes the idea that the club is open to everyone, and noted that the meetings are conducted in English.

“Why shouldn’t non-Chinese be allowed in the club?’’ Loo said. “Our mission is to support Chinese culture, sponsor educational programs and encourage community service. We welcome people with these values.’’

There are about 200 people in the club, and almost everyone in the club speaks English.

Loo said that in the past decade there has been a shift in the Asian community in South Pasadena from Chinese to an increasing number of Korean residents.

The city was 31 percent Asian in 2010, compared to 26.5 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The club gives the Asian community a way to bond and to assimilate.

“It is a place to be together as family,’’ Loo said. “It is also woven into the fabric of the community with fundraisers, scholarships and activities.’’

Education is a key focus of the Asian community, and the area of learning has received a lot of emphasis from club members.

Asian students comprised 32.8 percent of the students in the South Pasadena Unified School system in the 2018-19 school year, according to SPUSD data.

The club has been a supporter of both school improvements and programs at the library.

The Chinese-American Club offers $15,000 in grants to teachers and staff at the district schools. It also gives a total of $5,000 to two South Pasadena High School students and two $1,000 scholarships to South Pasadena High School students for Chinese language.

“The South Pasadena Unified School District greatly benefits from the support of the Chinese-American Club,’’ said Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “The club has developed a Mandarin after-school program for elementary schools, hosted high-school interns, given numerous scholarships for graduating seniors and coordinated an educational trip to China for interested high-school students. All these hands-on experiences enhance what our students are learning in the classroom.’’

Loo also noted that the club has been a supporter of the dual-language Mandarin program at the elementary-school level.

Maida Wong, public-services manager for the library, said the club has supported the library for several decades and has co-sponsored programs such as the popular summer reading program; computer workstations in the children’s room; and a tween series, which has included programs on writing, art drama, and STEM topics.

For more than a decade, the club has sponsored a Lunar New Year luncheon for 180 senior citizens. It has also made contributions to the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, the Pasadena Playhouse and the Huntington Gardens Chinese garden, and other charitable organizations.

Mayor Pro Tem Bob Joe noted that the club also provides a self-help reason for being in existence.

“It is a place to be together as a family,’’ Joe said. “It is also woven into the fabric of the community with fundraisers, scholarships and activities.’’

Joe said the club has also evolved to include new families, which has helped explain its continued vitality as an organization.

“There is a new and vibrant Asian community in South Pasadena,’’ he said.

“What I see is a family-oriented tradition with a commitment to education, and education is tied to those family traits that are most important to the Asian community.’’

Editor’s Note: People interested in information about the club, or in joining it, should go to the website at www.spcc-web.org.

My email is ALippman@gavilanmedia.com. Please write if you have any story ideas about people, places or things of interest to South Pasadena residents.