Chinese American Club Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Current and past SPCC Board Members at the organization’s 30th anniversary. Photos by Joseph Ruiz

The South Pasadena Chinese American Club (SPCC) celebrated its 30th anniversary in style last Saturday evening.

Its gala was held at the City Club, a private business club. The venue is on the 51st floor of the City National Bank building in downtown Los Angeles that offers spectacular views. Almost 300 attended in formal attire. Many youth were also present.

Tickets to the event were $125 per person. For a ticket of $200, guests could arrive early and enjoy a VIP Hour in the skyscraper club’s bar. This featured champagne, seafood hors d’oeuvres and other tasty appetizers.

As attendees were seated for a dinner of New York steak, Chilean sea bass or Portobello mushroom ravioli, the program began.

“SPCC is an organization of volunteers with a goal of positive intervention in the name of encouraging community service, support of educational programs and promoting Chinese culture,” SPCC President Joe Loo told the audience.

Former board Member Betty Wang traced the club’s history. She said the club started in 1989, when there was threat of a teacher’s strike in South Pasadena.

Left, Congresswoman Judy Chu and SPCC President Joe Loo.

Chinese-American community members Paul Zee, Malchon Kao and Karl Hwang formed a nonprofit organization, Wang said. Paul Zee, who later served as a city councilmember and mayor, was its first president, she added.

Co-founder Kao was at the evening’s event. Hwang passed away during his term. The club established a scholarship in his name, she said, and many students have benefitted.

“SPCC has accomplished a lot in 30 years,” Wang said, “in education, community service and culture.” In addition, she said, the board members formed lifelong friendships.

Loo explained the “why” behind the club’s sponsorships. He said SPCC funds the Library’s Summer Reading Program “because reading is one of the foundations of learning.” 

SPCC also offers a Mandarin after-school program, he said, “because language learning at an early age is shown to be a positive instrument for academic growth.”

Loo said the club also has high school interns “because working with young people encourages them to participate in society and our community.” He cited as an example the club’s sponsorship of the high school’s chapter of the SPCC. Students Charis Au, Ines Yang, Brandon Wong and Hanwui Choi lead the group.

Loo, who has served on the SPCC Board for 29 years, listed other programs, as well. High school students recently returned from a club-sponsored Dragon Tour, an educational trip to China, he said.

“In addition,” he said, “SPCC offers scholarships for graduating high school students, a Moon Festival celebration and grants to schools and the Library.”

One such grant was presented at the event.

Board Members Yuki Cutcheon and Sulynn Chee announced an award to the South Pasadena Public Library. SPCC will donate more than $3,000 for the library’s updating of its Chinese-language adult and children’s book collections. Maida Wong of the Library staff accepted the gift.

Zee also announced a Dragon Tour scholarship through the Zee Family Foundation in memory of his aunt, Yuet (Chow Chow) Zee. A longtime board member, she passed away in November 2018.

Loo thanked the event-planning committee. The members included Sulynn Chee, Jeannie Chiu, Yuki Cutcheon, Amelia Fong, Kaitlyn Rose and Tappan Zee, he said.

Congresswoman Judy Chu (27th CD) and L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva attended. Pasadena City College Board of Trustees’ member Linda Wah and South Pasadena Unified School District officials were also present. City officials and members of the San Marino Chinese Club were present. Current and former SPCC board members attended.

SPCC Board Members Tappan Zee and Katy Nielsen have traditionally served as the emcees for the club’s annual fundraisers. This time, however, they announced a new format shortly after the program began.

“For the rest of the night,” Zee said, “we’re going to be turning a lot of the mike time over to the next generation of leaders, not just in SPCC but in our community, in our city, county and state.” Zee is the son of the group’s co-founder Paul Zee.

Members of the high school SPCC chapter who volunteered at the event did just that. They announced the gala’s sponsors and made introductions. 

Entertainment and additional fundraising were also part of the evening’s program.

A silent auction featured offerings from almost 50 donors. Youth volunteers sold 50/50 raffle tickets and the chance to win prizes by purchasing a $10 balloon.

Entertainment included stilt walkers in traditional Chinese dress and a lion dancer. A masked face-changing artist in colorful costume and a gymnast also performed. Dancing to music played by student DJs followed the program.

SPCC Board Member Cutcheon said after the event that the adults stayed until 11:30 p.m. “Then the high schoolers and middle schoolers took over the dance floor until midnight,” she said.

For information on SPCC, visit its website at