Connie Ling

 

Connie-Ling.jpgMy name is Connie Ling, and I came from a Chinese family living in the Philippines. My father was very strict-all of the kids had to work hard in the family store after school. The store was in a very poor community in the Southern Philippines. The customers were sometimes very tough or rude. I learned to understand these problems, but also to protect the store. My mother came from a very large, poor family with ten children, always struggling to survive. She taught me to love my neighbors, because the neighbors always helped each other out.

When I was a teenager, my father sold the store and moved the whole family to Hong Kong. I had to learn to speak Chinese. After a few years, it was time for the family to find me a husband. The family would find young men to meet me. I was very picky. I did not grow up in Hong Kong or China speaking Chinese, so I was  not the traditional Chinese girl. I wanted to find a husband who spoke English. I went through 18 young men before I finally agreed to marry George Ling, who was born in the US, raised in China, and spoke English!

Life changed a lot for me when I came to New York, to America! Like a lot of other immigrant women, I got a job in a Chinatown sewing factory, very close to where we lived. It was hard work, since I did not have experience with the sewing machine before. I worked in the factories for 10-12 years, both non-union and union shops. Since I spoke English and Chinese, I helped my co-workers ask questions and get information from the union rep who visited the factory. I was never afraid to speak up…I had a “big mouth”!

I always liked to help people.  One day the union rep asked if I would like to work for the union.  I met the union’s President (Jay Mazur) for a job interview. He told me that the work involved more than helping people. There would be struggles and protests to organize the non-union factories and fight for the workers’ rights. I thought it over and discussed it with my family, and finally took a job with Local 23-25 in 1982, just before the big Chinatown strike. Working in the factory and in the union, I saw lots of problems faced by the workers, like unfair pay or getting fired for no reason. When workers had complaints, some bosses got very angry and yelled at me to get out of the shop. When I came back with more union co-workers, we convinced the boss to resolve the workers’ problems step by step. I worked in the union for twenty years, and retired in 2002. The most important result was a close relationship with hundreds (thousands?) of workers in the community who still keep in touch today.

I had three children in the years I worked in the factory. I was active in the parent association of the middle school that my kids attended, for five or six years. As Parent Association President, I helped to raise money for the school, sponsor parties to thank all the teachers, and organize parents to go to hearings and rallies at the school board and City to support our kids. My children are grown up and married now, and I have three beautiful grandchildren. Family and community are very important to me, as well as all the old friends from the union days and new friends in retirement. My late husband’s Chinatown village association picked me to organize a Women’s Committee because they valued my union organizing experience. I am also active in Church activities, Bible study, and home visits to seniors. I love to travel, and I love to learn.

My message to the young generation today: life is full of ups and downs. Keep moving forward, look to the future, don’t give up your dreams!

 

 

Duen Yee Lam

Duen-Lee-Lam

Born 1945 in Macau, Duen Yee Lam’s family moved to Hong Kong when she was age 10 . There were 5 children, and she had adult duties at age 12-13, taking care of her brothers and working to help the family. In the 1960’s she worked in electronics factories doing assembly work on small radios.  Later she worked at a custom tailor shop where she learned sewing skills and fashion industry experiences. Her husband worked in a knitting factory. They met and married in 1968. She made all her own clothes, and later clothes for her three daughters (born in 1969, 1971, 1977). She passed exams to get work in large sewing factories in Hong Kong, with good benefits and pay, as well as numerous activities for the workers.

After her children were born, she took sewing home, and worked at home on garments, and later embroidered flowers and fancy decorative trimmings.  Later she got a job as a fruit and vegetable vendor, work she could do around her children’s school schedules. She was always working to support herself and the family. She always saved money for any emergency, and the family enjoyed a secure life in Hong Kong.

The decision to immigrate to the U.S. was very difficult. Her husband’s family was in America, and petitioned for them to come. She and her husband and three girls were comfortable in Hong Kong, and being close to 40 years old, they hesitated to start all over again. The decision was postponed and postponed. The U.S. government was ready to cancel their immigrant visas. Her husband left the hard, final decision to her, and she decided to move the whole family to the USA. There were two main reasons: (1) for a brighter future for her children, and (2) for the opportunity for her husband to be with his siblings in the U.S.

After arriving in New York, she put the kids into public schools in Brooklyn near home, and got a job in a sewing factory in Manhattan’s Chinatown. She got a lot of important information about housing, schools, and jobs from relatives and the Chinese radio. She worked in a unionized factory with good benefits. Her husband worked for a construction company doing home renovations, based on work experiences on subway construction projects in Hong Kong. They lived in a Brooklyn apartment for ten years, then applied successfully for a co-op apartment (Mitchell Lama) where she still lives now. Over time, her housing, jobs, health care and children’s schooling were secure and fine.

Duen Yee was always a reliable, hard worker. She worked steadily in the Chinatown garment factory until there was  not enough work and she collected unemployment benefits for the first time (1989). The Union was offering a sewing skills class, and she signed up. The class graduation showed off the clothes produced in the class. After the class, she landed a supervisor job at a new factory managed by Hong Kong business people producing  ladies’ pants for Liz Claiborne. (The shop lasted for 3 years, then closed.) She always worked very hard and fast, and she was capable and helpful to others. She could understand and operate every special machine, and loved sewing work.

Her attitude as a supervisor (still a union member, not the factory boss) was always reasonable and fair. She did not yell at workers, fight or hold grudges.  She saw a lot of conflicts among workers in factories. For example, when there was good work in the shop, workers would fight over the bundles – to get more work, and therefore more pay, especially on the easy projects (which Chinese workers called “soy sauce chicken”-as contrasted to the difficult projects, that were called “hard pork bones”). One day two workers were fighting over the bundles, and started threatening each other with scissors, ready to fight. Everyone in the factory, including the boss, stopped to watch, but nobody stepped in to stop the conflict.  Finally, Duen Yee scolded the workers, “You spent all your hard earned savings to come to America – for what?? To hurt each other, fight, get reported to the police…why? Show a little respect!” This finally calmed everyone down. The co-workers, and employers, always respected Duen Yee for being sensible, reliable, and peaceful-and still very strong.

She created a warm and loving family environment, while teaching them about all the ups and downs they would face out in the world. In the factory, she saw parents bringing their children to work because the children told them there was no school. The parents did not know…maybe there was an exam, and the kids did not want to go to school. She always checked up with the school and her children to make sure of their work and progress. The three daughters are very close, and they always looked out for each other. When she would try to punish one of them, the other two would try to talk her out of it, offer her tea or nice words to distract her.

One of her daughters entered school in New York in the 5th grade, not knowing English and very new. The teacher asked a Chinese classmate to be her friend, but this classmate was a bully. She made her carry books and bossed her around. One day, her daughter came home with big red marks on her cheek. The girl had slapped her for refusing to do something she wanted. Duen Yee said she can still see the mark of the bully’s hand on her daughter’s face when she thinks about this incident.

She felt it was important to be strong, determined and forward looking – don’t look at the past, don’t show regrets to your family. Her husband’s construction work was very harsh and physically strenuous. Most of Duen Yee’s relatives were in Hong Kong, much too expensive to call on the telephone in those days. She got a video recorder, but every time she started to tape a message to them, she would break down and cry. She had to support and encourage her children, even when they were bullied in school…teach them not to make or get into trouble. It made her heart ache, but she managed to move forward.

She never had much schooling, and doesn’t read or write Chinese well. One of the hardest things she did was to take a Civics class with the union to prepare for the US citizenship exam. Her boss scolded her for leaving work early to attend night classes. She really wanted to become a citizen to sponsor her youngest brother to come to the US. It was a big pressure on her, and she was very happy when she finally succeeded.

After the September 11 tragedy, many Chinatown garment factories were in the downtown “frozen zone,” and closed down one by one. Duen Yee took job training classes to get certificates as a home care worker. She did this work for eight years, taking care of six different seniors. Some of the seniors were demanding. After she wiped down the table, the senior would run his hands over it to point out all the spots that were still sticky. One would watch her chopping onions or other vegetables, and tell her to cut them a certain way. Another would ask her to wash and rinse laundry 5-6 times (by hand). She would always talk with them and ask why and explain her methods. The senior who needed his laundry rinsed many times had serious skin allergies. Duen Yee had good “people skills” and was able to win the trust and cooperation of her seniors.

After retirement in 2014, she has helped to babysit four grandchildren. Her spouse helped out during his last years. Duen Yee enjoys her life in retirement, going to the senior center and sharing experiences from all her jobs and other activities with many old friends and relatives. She sings Chinese opera and practices the songs at home. She feels like there’s not enough time to do everything she wants to do!

Looking back on all her jobs, she loved working in the sewing factories the most. She knew all the machines and how to check and get the garments ready to ship out. She is happy and proud that her daughters work hard and carefully like her.

Born 1945 in Macau, Duen Yee Lam’s family moved to Hong Kong when she was age 10 . There were 5 children, and she had adult duties at age 12-13, taking care of her brothers and working to help the family. In the 1960’s she worked in electronics factories doing assembly work on small radios.  Later she worked at a custom tailor shop where she learned sewing skills and fashion industry experiences. Her husband worked in a knitting factory. They met and married in 1968. She made all her own clothes, and later clothes for her three daughters (born in 1969, 1971, 1977). She passed exams to get work in large sewing factories in Hong Kong, with good benefits and pay, as well as numerous activities for the workers.

After her children were born, she took sewing home, and worked at home on garments, and later embroidered flowers and fancy decorative trimmings.  Later she got a job as a fruit and vegetable vendor, work she could do around her children’s school schedules. She was always working to support herself and the family. She always saved money for any emergency, and the family enjoyed a secure life in Hong Kong.

The decision to immigrate to the U.S. was very difficult. Her husband’s family was in America, and petitioned for them to come. She and her husband and three girls were comfortable in Hong Kong, and being close to 40 years old, they hesitated to start all over again. The decision was postponed and postponed. The U.S. government was ready to cancel their immigrant visas. Her husband left the hard, final decision to her, and she decided to move the whole family to the USA. There were two main reasons: (1) for a brighter future for her children, and (2) for the opportunity for her husband to be with his siblings in the U.S.

After arriving in New York, she put the kids into public schools in Brooklyn near home, and got a job in a sewing factory in Manhattan’s Chinatown. She got a lot of important information about housing, schools, and jobs from relatives and the Chinese radio. She worked in a unionized factory with good benefits. Her husband worked for a construction company doing home renovations, based on work experiences on subway construction projects in Hong Kong. They lived in a Brooklyn apartment for ten years, then applied successfully for a co-op apartment (Mitchell Lama) where she still lives now. Over time, her housing, jobs, health care and children’s schooling were secure and fine.

Duen Yee was always a reliable, hard worker. She worked steadily in the Chinatown garment factory until there was  not enough work and she collected unemployment benefits for the first time (1989). The Union was offering a sewing skills class, and she signed up. The class graduation showed off the clothes produced in the class. After the class, she landed a supervisor job at a new factory managed by Hong Kong business people producing  ladies’ pants for Liz Claiborne. (The shop lasted for 3 years, then closed.) She always worked very hard and fast, and she was capable and helpful to others. She could understand and operate every special machine, and loved sewing work.

Her attitude as a supervisor (still a union member, not the factory boss) was always reasonable and fair. She did not yell at workers, fight or hold grudges.  She saw a lot of conflicts among workers in factories. For example, when there was good work in the shop, workers would fight over the bundles – to get more work, and therefore more pay, especially on the easy projects (which Chinese workers called “soy sauce chicken”-as contrasted to the difficult projects, that were called “hard pork bones”). One day two workers were fighting over the bundles, and started threatening each other with scissors, ready to fight. Everyone in the factory, including the boss, stopped to watch, but nobody stepped in to stop the conflict.  Finally, Duen Yee scolded the workers, “You spent all your hard earned savings to come to America – for what?? To hurt each other, fight, get reported to the police…why? Show a little respect!” This finally calmed everyone down. The co-workers, and employers, always respected Duen Yee for being sensible, reliable, and peaceful-and still very strong.

She created a warm and loving family environment, while teaching them about all the ups and downs they would face out in the world. In the factory, she saw parents bringing their children to work because the children told them there was no school. The parents did not know…maybe there was an exam, and the kids did not want to go to school. She always checked up with the school and her children to make sure of their work and progress. The three daughters are very close, and they always looked out for each other. When she would try to punish one of them, the other two would try to talk her out of it, offer her tea or nice words to distract her.

One of her daughters entered school in New York in the 5th grade, not knowing English and very new. The teacher asked a Chinese classmate to be her friend, but this classmate was a bully. She made her carry books and bossed her around. One day, her daughter came home with big red marks on her cheek. The girl had slapped her for refusing to do something she wanted. Duen Yee said she can still see the mark of the bully’s hand on her daughter’s face when she thinks about this incident.

She felt it was important to be strong, determined and forward looking – don’t look at the past, don’t show regrets to your family. Her husband’s construction work was very harsh and physically strenuous. Most of Duen Yee’s relatives were in Hong Kong, much too expensive to call on the telephone in those days. She got a video recorder, but every time she started to tape a message to them, she would break down and cry. She had to support and encourage her children, even when they were bullied in school…teach them not to make or get into trouble. It made her heart ache, but she managed to move forward.

She never had much schooling, and doesn’t read or write Chinese well. One of the hardest things she did was to take a Civics class with the union to prepare for the US citizenship exam. Her boss scolded her for leaving work early to attend night classes. She really wanted to become a citizen to sponsor her youngest brother to come to the US. It was a big pressure on her, and she was very happy when she finally succeeded.

After the September 11 tragedy, many Chinatown garment factories were in the downtown “frozen zone,” and closed down one by one. Duen Yee took job training classes to get certificates as a home care worker. She did this work for eight years, taking care of six different seniors. Some of the seniors were demanding. After she wiped down the table, the senior would run his hands over it to point out all the spots that were still sticky. One would watch her chopping onions or other vegetables, and tell her to cut them a certain way. Another would ask her to wash and rinse laundry 5-6 times (by hand). She would always talk with them and ask why and explain her methods. The senior who needed his laundry rinsed many times had serious skin allergies. Duen Yee had good “people skills” and was able to win the trust and cooperation of her seniors.

After retirement in 2014, she has helped to babysit four grandchildren. Her spouse helped out during his last years. Duen Yee enjoys her life in retirement, going to the senior center and sharing experiences from all her jobs and other activities with many old friends and relatives. She sings Chinese opera and practices the songs at home. She feels like there’s not enough time to do everything she wants to do!

Looking back on all her jobs, she loved working in the sewing factories the most. She knew all the machines and how to check and get the garments ready to ship out. She is happy and proud that her daughters work hard and carefully like her.

Eddie Chiu

 

Eddie-Chiu.jpg

I came to America in 1980, from a long line of political leaders. My family came from the rulers of the ancient Song Dynasty. In 1948, we were chased by Maoist soldiers from China to Hong Kong. When I came to America, I started a few restaurants, one on Grand Street and another on Division. I retired when I was still young enough to give back to the community- to make life better for other people. I took over the Lin Sing Association, a very old Chinatown club, to provide space for journalists and community members to meet, to take classes and teach them, and to help people find answers to their problems.

Lana Cheung

Lana-Cheung

 

Living in China

I was raised by my mother, in a single-parent home. Despite having only met my father three times in my life, I had a great, loving relationship with my dad. I have known him to be a conservative, educated, patriot with strong ideals who dedicated himself to his country and countrymen. My mother grew up in the countryside, while uneducated, she was brilliant, adaptive, embraced change and all things modern. After WWII, China was chaotic and its people poor. My mother wanted to flee the country in order to provide us with a better and more stable life. My father on the other hand, felt that communism gave the country hope. He felt that it was his duty to help rebuild China, especially when China was in need. My family was split. This marks the end of my first meeting with my dad.

When I was a child, my mother—ever so bold, moved me from GuanZhou to Macau by illegally claiming a Macau resident to be my official mother. After living in Macau for a short while, I was reunited with my mother in Hong Kong. As I child, “love” to me meant sacrifice. My mother gave up a life with her husband for her daughter. My father gave up a life with his family for the love for his country.

Growing up in Hong Kong

My mother has always pushed me toward education. She insisted that I learn English even when it wasn’t popular to do so in Hong Kong. She had these three rules.

  1. Don’t be afraid of hard work and taking on more responsibilities.
  2. Don’t get caught in gossip and negativity; see the good in people.
  3. Never stop learning.

I used to think that the first rule was just a scheme just to get me to do more chores. As the only one literate in my home, my duties included the daily reading of the newspaper to my mom. I was also in charge of all the correspondence with my dad. I loved receiving letters from him and I love writing to him. I would write him about all my problems and in turn, he guided me through life from my mailbox. Although, my father was never beside me, I felt like was always by my side. I developed a love for reading. I read everything, newspaper, poetry, fiction and non-fiction. My world was filled with fantastic stories and romance. “Love” to me meant bliss. My mother’s love for my father was obvious in the daily dose of praise for him. My parents’ love for me was obvious in their care. I felt capable and was full of passion. I even went to visit my father for my sixth-grade graduation. By then, he had a new family.

After my high-school graduation I saw my dad in China for the third and final time. During that visit, I noticed that something had changed. He aged. Although we never spoke about it, I sensed a sadness in him. Perhaps he felt that his dream for a better China was unrealized. Perhaps he wondered what life would be like if he stayed with my mother and I.

In the year I became 23, my father died in March of that year. In July, my elder son was born. In September, my mother died. I noticed that I started a habit of holding on to people. I held on to the arms of my friends. I held on to the hands of my child.

Living in an orphanage

A few years later, I started working as a counselor at an orphanage called St. Christopher’s Home. For the next seven years, I lived in the orphanage and spent every minute of every day surrounded by children. I was living among other young counselors that were full of love, compassion and hope. The children were full of innocence and joy. I considered the orphanage my family. Through them, I grew stronger, wiser and once more full of love. I regained my passion and learned to use it to help others. I felt empowered as I remember my mother’s third rule. I went back to school and even learned to ride a bike.

Moving to America

In my 30’s, I immigrated to the US. I reunited with my husband but had to move away from the family I had in the orphanage. While I felt isolated, was friendless and unemployed, I also remembered my mother’s second rule. I stayed positive and hopeful. A year later, I started working with a union named ILGWU and continued to work there for the next 30 years. The union, my colleagues, union members, and community leaders became my friends, then they became my second family.

I am lucky to have such people in my life; each providing invaluable influence. I continue to apply my mother’s rules in my life. I find it rewarding to work hard and have responsibilities. I find joy and goodness in daily life. I continue to learn. The union has given me a chance to learn a great deal, such as building organizations, developing leadership, learning about the election process, spirit of democracy, labors’ rights, and multi-cultural nature of America. In 2006, the union partnered me with the NY State Senator election campaign. For the past decade, I got to work with the State Senator and helped served Chinatown community.

Like many immigrants, I am not wealthy. However, I am rich in life. I get to help others, I have a strong bond with the community I help serve and I have a wonderful family. My grandchildren like to say “Love is in the air”. It’s true that love has always been around me. Just as I feel my father’s love even though he’s not in my life. Just as I feel my mother’s love through her rules and guidance long after her passing. Just as I feel my friends’ love as they nurture me. I see my parents love through me. I see my love through my children. I see my children’s love in my grandchildren. Despite the ups and downs in my life, love has always been in the air.

Rocky Chin

Rocky-Chin.jpg

“You arrived on July 4th –  standing up!” That was how mother described my birth in 1947.  My breech-birth arrival was cause for celebration.  That it happened to fall on Independence Day, accompanied by fireworks in the Nation’s capital, was in sharp contrast to what my parents had endured in war-torn China just a few years before my birth.  My parents had left America in the late 1930s serving as civilian professionals in China.  Their first-born son perished in the harsh conditions of Chonqing, a city ravaged by perpetual bombing by Japanese fighter planes.

I was told the story of my parents’ escape from Chongqing over the Himalayas as a child. I did not understand how our family came to settle in the Appalachian hills of Kentucky, but  I appreciated the fact that my parents were forthright in sharing their early history in China with us as children.  Knowing one’s roots is critical to finding your voice.

My father’s parents were born in Toisan, a rural part of Southern China.  His father ventured across the Pacific at the age of 14.  Before finally settling in Worcester, Massachusetts – he had crossed the Pacific four times! My father and all but one of his siblings was born in America.  Their family was a curiosity in Worcester since my grandmother had bound feet and insisted on wearing Chinese garb.  My grandfather, however, embraced American customs, insisting on cooking Turkey with all the fixins for their Thanksgiving Meal.

If my father was told stories of his parents lives in China, he never shared them with us.  His first visit to China came shortly after he lost both of his parents to illness. It was 1937, and he arrived shortly before the infamous Japanese siege of Nanking, China.

My Mother grew up in Beijing, China. She was an official’s daughter. Not wealthy, but certainly more privileged than most Chinese.  Her father would escape Chinese Exclusion Laws because of his diplomatic status.  All of his children would attend American and British schools.  Years after my maternal grandfather passed away, his wife’s immigration status would be questioned by authories – despite her many years in America.  Unable to pass the citizenship English test, she was threatened with deportation, and forced to move to Canada where she lived out her last days with her oldest son.

Like many Asians in American, we are often asked: “Where do you come from?”

I am proud of my Chinese heritage and also proud of the fortuitous circumstances of being born on July 4th in Washington DC.  But the question “Where are you From” often sadly reflects a perception that we Asians in America are not “American”, that we are foreigners.  So if I answer: “I was born in Washington & I grew up in Kentucky”,  the questioner would persist in asking:  “Where are you really from?”

This question spurred me to delve even deeper into understanding my own family’s history, to understand America’s racist immigration laws which have shaped our lives but also the lives of every American.   Our family experienced segregation “American apartheid-style” explicitly during one road trip.  As we stopped by gas stations, the signs left nothing to the imagination:  “Colored Only” and “Whites Only” signs.  Having someone tell you which bathroom to go to is an experience even a young person will never forget.

In college, I chose to be a Freshman Counselor.  This meant rejecting “rushing” for a fraternity.  My father had been a harsh critique of fraternities.  I would end up having my own views published by the Alumni Magazine – and the backlash I received from the mostly white alumni was itself an education in how deeply seated racism is in America.  In graduate school, I discovered a small but active Asians American student movement. It was exciting! We founded the first Asian American Student Association, published the first Asian American Studies Journal (“Amerasia Journal”) and created and taught the first course on Asian American Studies.

By the time I entered law school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a civil rights or legal services attorney. Standing up for civil and human rights seemed to be a perfect life career.  I was lucky to have found a job where I would get paid for enforcing policies, laws and initiatives that I felt addressed issues of social justice and fighting inequality.  I continued to also maintain my out-side activism, since civil rights agencies are invariably always under-funded by governments.

I took a brief respite from working at the City’s Commission on Human Rights in 2001.  I was among 7 candidates running for city council in Manhattan’s District 1 -an incredible experience even though I did not win.  As a candidate, I was able to speak out about issues that I felt passionate about: affordable housing, workers rights, disability and civil rights issues, equal opportunity.  I was also able to do a lot more “soul-searching” than ever, and learned to better appreciate the relationships I had with my family and friends. The Primary -on September 11th – was obviously horrifically disrupted.  But I eventually landed a position at the State civil rights agency as Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity, where I was able to address the importance of promoting the human rights laws amongst more New Yorkers by translating agency materials into many different languages.

For young people, it’s important to understand not only their own family’s history, but the history and struggles of diverse peoples in America to overcome oppression, racism and other forms of discrimination.

Marian Thom

 

Marian-ThomMarian Thom is an early Chinatown union activist, and a bilingual paraprofessional (para) who worked on reading and other programs in NYC public schools in Chinatown for 36 years.  She has motivated and defended students and fellow employees alike during a long career devoted to her community.  She helped to organize the paras into the United Federation of Teachers, and has been active in the union since 1970.

Her influence in both the schools and in the labor movement is wide ranging:  in 1990 she helped to found the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, serving as a national officer and national board member for some years.  She was the NY Chapter President of APALA for years, and was also active in the Coalition of Labor Union Women.

As a school para, she showed those (often rambunctious) middle school kids a lot of “tough love,” making sure they did not skip school and behaved properly in class, and worked closely with their families.  She served the local Boy Scout/Cub Scout troop for 41 years (starting with her two sons), and was on the Board of Directors of Confucius Plaza housing for 15 years.  She continues to chair the UFT’s Asian American Heritage Committee, as she has for 24 years.

 

Theresa Chan

 

Born in China and educated in Hong Kong, Teresa Chan immigrated to America in 1968. Her first job in NYC was as an accountant at Beekman Hospital, where she interpreted medical and billing matters for Chinese patients. Eight years later, as the secretary to the managing director of the Chinese-American Planning Council, Teresa befriended social workers in the office next to hers and learned about government benefits and programs available to struggling new immigrants. She shared this information wherever she discovered that someone needed help.

When the Garment Industry Day Care Center was founded in 1983, Chan worked as the administrative assistant, and she was often the first and last person that colleagues, parents, children, and visitors saw each day. In addition to managing the books, she became the reliable friend and mentor who advised frazzled new parents on coping with sick or misbehaving kids, styled the hair of the girls after nap time (many of whom looked to her in preparing for their high school proms), inspired children to return as teenage interns, and persuaded young teaching assistants to complete their college educations.

Officially, Teresa retired in 2012. But she continues her outreach efforts as a volunteer at the New York Presbyterian Hospital and elsewhere. Whenever there is an election, Teresa and her husband can be found at a polling station registering, translating, and assisting in the voting process.

Married into the Chan family, Teresa joined the Oak Tin Association, which represents members with the surnames of Chan, Chin, or Chen. Traditionally, the leaders and elders were exclusively male, but together with Council Member Margaret Chin Teresa established its first Women’s Committee. This breakthrough accomplishment is now celebrating its 14th year.

Chan’s commitment has influenced her daughters’ contributions to education and government, and it can be seen in every smiling face she greets in her daily walks throughout Chinatown