The Little Tokyo Service Center provides a wide range of services to assist low-income individuals in need.
Executive Director Erich Nakano tells Inside the Issues despite recent gentrification of the Little Tokyo area, there are still many Japanese Americans who continue to live there, many in one of the area's five senior living communities.
The center recently began the Better Together campaign, which provides support to the Little Tokyo community, its seniors and small businesses.
Nakano said it was hard watching seniors in the area try to navigate when the pandemic first hit the region and safer-at-home orders were implemented.
“A lot of the seniors were really reluctant and just had a hard time physically, being able to stand in line at the grocery store and fight the crowds. And all too often they get there and there’s nothing left,” he explained.
The Little Tokyo Service Center has also implemented Little Tokyo Eats, a program that provides seniors with subsidized meals. The center is purchasing meals from local restaurants, at market prices, and delivering them to seniors, who pay $3 per meal. Nakano said the program is not only helping those in need, but also the local restaurants who found it hard to stay open and, in many cases, pivot into providing delivery and take-out options. They had counselors visit locations and help the businesses prepare a new business model.
“For many of these restaurants, they don't normally do take-out and delivery, so it’s like trying to learn that new mold of business functioning,” he said. “Many of them are not online, so helping them get online to do marketing, use social media. Many of the restaurants have been here for decades, sometimes, they’re multi-generational, so many of them are old school. They're not into a lot of the things that restaurants and businesses are able to use now so they have to learn on the fly so it's a real struggle.”
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