JACCC is excited to announce its 6th Annual Community Spirit Awards, highlighting the tireless efforts of the unsung heroes of our community. As part of JACCC’s 37th Anniversary Celebration & Awards Dinner, we will be recognizing three individuals who are making a significant impact on our community through arts, activism, social services, or business. This year, JACCC pays tribute to these outstanding individuals and their ongoing contributions to the people and places around them.
2017 COMMUNITY SPIRIT AWARD RECIPIENTS
Beth Fujishige is a dynamic leader and passionate volunteer. From her days as Undergraduate Administrative Vice President at UCLA to the present, she continues to promote Japanese culture through activities at Orange County Buddhist Church (Obon, Hanamatsuri, Girls’ Day, Project Kokoro) and serves on its Board of Directors. Beth played an active role in planning the Nihon Waso Gakuen Japanese Kimono Festival and coordinated Rotarians to participate in Walk the Farm to assist Japan farmers devastated by the Tohoku tsunami.
For ten years, Beth chaired the Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk National Japanese American Memorial in DC. Beth was the founder of Nen Daiko, Ekoji Buddhist Temple’s Taiko Drum Ensemble and was editor of Ekoji’s 25th Anniversary Cookbook, introducing Japanese dishes to an ethnically mixed congregation.. She also served on the JACL DC Chapter board. Most recently, Beth is the project manager for the Tomodachi Bento Project, an all-volunteer meals program serving Japanese and Japanese American homebound seniors in Orange County.
In her spare time, Beth is a Big with the OC Big Brothers Big Sisters program mentoring Jassmin, a 10 year old student that Beth hopes will someday be the first in her family to attend college.
Kanji was born in Hiroshima and came to Los Angeles when he was half year old. During WWII, his family was in Santa Anita, Jerome and Rohwer. In 1945, his family resettled in Chicago. He received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology and PhD from Northwestern University.
Dr. Sahara worked for General Dynamics in Pomona and was an Engineering Supervisor. He and wife Jane (Sakata) raised Richard and Judy in Claremont. Kanji was President of the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center.
Upon his retirement Kanji and Jane moved to Torrance. With his ukulele, he has been leading the Sing-A-Long at the Gardena Adult Day Care Center for 16 years. He received the Gardena Volunteer of the Year Award in 2013.
Kanji belongs to GLA JACL, NCRR, Manzanar Committee, Faith UMC and a JANM docent. He was Project Director of the Tuna Canyon Traveling Exhibit.
Evelyn was born in Denver where her family moved after serving time in the Poston Arizona concentration camp. When she was 4, they returned to L.A. moving into an apartment in Jefferson Park. Thanks to racial covenants being struck down by the Fair Housing Act, they were able to buy a house in the Crenshaw District where she grew up.
She came of age in the 1960s, fighting for Ethic Studies on campus in the 1960s. She joined others protesting abuses of redevelopment in the 1970s. And in the 1980s, she joined the fight against U.S. support for South African apartheid and for redress for World War 2 imprisonment helping pass the 1987 redress bill.
Today, she still works at Little Tokyo Service Center bringing other stakeholders together to maintain community control over the rapidly-gentrifying Little Tokyo.
She lives in Mid City with her husband, and near her daughter, son-in-law and 3-year-old grandson.