May 20, 2024


World's finest Food

The stories behind the health award

By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly

More than 2,900 U.S. health care workers have died due to COVID-19 since last March, and 65% of them are people of color, according to The Guardian.

There are 387,901 cases of COVID-19 among healthcare personnel, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Health care workers have paid a steep price to fight COVID on the front lines. Many are exhausted, working double shifts each day. Everywhere, there is a shortage of COVID doctors and nurses. How are these workers going to endure this long, challenging battle against the relentless COVID in the ICU for days, weeks, and months ahead?

Rocky Fong

Rocky Fong
Vice President
Corporate Social Responsibility
U.S. Bank
“I think it is important to recognize our health care heroes within the community whenever we have the opportunity. Their selfless act and dedicated passion for serving those in need are the primary force that positively impact and tackle the COVID-19 pandemic challenges we’re facing every day.”

With different COVID variants from England, South Africa, and Brazil, the pandemic is not going to end soon, and likely to drag on late into the year. Many individuals and groups have done their share to support health care workers by donating meals. I love that artists have painted portraits or took photos of them, capturing their emotions and courage, exhibiting their work as heroes in different indoor and outdoor spaces. But is it enough? What can we do as individuals and organizations to show our appreciation and boost morale for those who have saved lives?

“If no one else is doing it, I will,” said the late community leader Al Sugiyama. His point is, don’t just talk about it, do something for those who need your love, support, and help.

We took Al’s words to heart. Besides raising awareness of the health care workers’ plight and dedication, the Asian Weekly would like to say ‘thank you’ in a memorable way.

Brad Goode

Brad Goode
Director of Marketing
Washington Federal Bank
“At WaFd Bank, we’re reminded of the vital work our health care responders perform every day during this pandemic. We are honored to shine a spotlight of gratitude and appreciation on their dedication and selfless efforts to keep us all safe. Thank you.”

I confess that I had numerous doubts and fears before I organized it. The negatives were overwhelming. I used to be confident in organizing all our events. But regarding the health event, I was filled with conflicting emotions. I guess I am human, too.

The difficulty is we didn’t know where to begin, even though we hatched the idea last September. How to find them—from hospitals, clinics, or private health care professionals? There are so many of them. We needed an outsider to help us move forward. However, we did know that we wanted to inspire others to support health care workers. And if we honored them, we want to give more than just a plaque.

Jim Doane

Jim Doane
“I support the Northwest Asian Weekly’s Community Health Excellence Award Program because the honorees are role models fighting for us on the frontlines of this pandemic. We need to tell their stories.”

The inspiration

In the midst of wondering what to do, an unexpected email came in November.

“As we come up to the end of the year, I found a couple of dollars and wanted to run an idea past you,” said Tim Otani, vice president of community relations at MUFG Union Bank. “Do you have any upcoming ‘events’ that I might contribute towards?”

Otani had no clue that his words were like a vaccine shot in my arm, propelling me to cloud nine. I screamed with exhilaration. In any event we do, it is not easy to get support. But Otani volunteered to sponsor anything meaningful we come up with. And this is the second time he initiated sponsorship in less than a year. He wanted to see honorees getting restaurants’ certificates, too. How exciting to know that our supporters and us think alike!

Tim Otani

Tim Otani
External Affairs Manager
Corporate Social Responsibility
MUFG Union Bank
“MUFG Union Bank is proud to recognize those frontline workers who are helping us, individually and collectively, to be safe. Taking care of your personal health has always been important. But perhaps now, more than ever, it is a critical need. In this time of crisis, we can clearly see how individual health care is really a community-wide concern. We applaud all of those working in the community to meet our health care needs.”

Instantly, I responded with the proposal of honoring health care workers. He couldn’t agree more. It’s a win-win for the bank, workers, restaurants, and us. It drove us from being passive to firing up and moving.

Wine and grocery

Duc Tran and his daughter Leeching

Viet-Wah’s owners have been generous, giving me several times more than I requested. Owners Duc Tran and his daughter Leeching offered gift certificates valued over thousands of dollars to organization honorees, ICHS, the ACRS mental health department, and Kin On Nursing Home. Wow!

Leeching Tran

Leeching Tran
Vice President
Viet-Wah Group
“We owe so much to our community health care workers who have been vital not only during this pandemic, but day-to-day as well. They have gone above and beyond their call of duty and Viet-Wah is grateful and honored to be able to recognize them in this way.”

Last week, more good news. Jenny Chang, who owns a wine business, wanted to give John Liu, our associate publisher, a few bottles for his help in her community work.

Liu told me, “I don’t drink.” “Me neither,” I said, “But don’t say no. We can give wine to our honorees not connected to the above-mentioned health organizations.” Specifically, it has to be red wine as it provides antioxidants and other health benefits. Each of the individual honorees will receive a restaurant certificate and a bottle of red wine. It’s the first time we have ever done this in our events. We cannot believe our fortune in making this event a reality.

And every honoree will get a short write-up in the Asian Weekly. Also, thanks to ICHS Interim Foundation Director Angela Toda, who gave me important advice so we can keep the ball rolling.

See you on Feb. 9, from 4-6 p.m., for Asian Weekly’s Community Health Excellence Award online. Here is the Zoom link: You may have a chance to interact with our honorees, in addition to saying thank you.

Assunta can be reached at [email protected].