The following is an announcement from ACRS.

SEATTLE, WA—Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) held its annual gala, A Culinary Journey, on Saturday, October 1 at The Westin Bellevue. Over 500 community leaders, elected officials, and ACRS supporters and volunteers came together to raise funds to support the agency’s work to meet the needs of over 26,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – many of whom are immigrants or refugees – as well as others across the region. The event featured remarks from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, client stories and a live cooking demonstration by Chef Nirmal Monteiro of the highly-acclaimed Nirmal’s restaurant in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

Presenting Sponsor Comcast paved the way for a successful event that raised over $300,000 and gave attendees a glimpse into the array of programs and services offered at ACRS. This year’s theme was “Hope, Opportunity and Voice,” which recognizes that many seek and receive from ACRS hope and opportunity to meet the basic needs of their families, and in the process, often find their voice. At ACRS, clients overcome linguistic and cultural barriers, and gain the ability to advocate on behalf of themselves, their families and their communities on the issues that matter most to them.

Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle thanked gala guests for supporting ACRS and highlighted how the City of Seattle and ACRS are working together to get “immigrants and refugees ready to get their citizenship. And if they are citizens, to be sure that they’re able to vote in this next election, regardless of how they vote.”

In a video featuring client stories about how they’ve found hope, opportunity and voice at ACRS, Lourdes and Felix Nillas, both in their 70s, shared the story of how they connected with ACRS’ citizenship program at their local library. After becoming U.S. citizens and registering to vote, they carefully read through their first voter guide and considered their options before casting their votes, calling the experience a “taste of true democracy.” Later in the video, Club Bamboo member Fai Lau recounted her experience testifying in front of the King County Council to advocate for the 106 bus line, so that she could continue to access services at ACRS from her home in South King County. “If we didn’t have this opportunity [to share our experiences], our elected officials would not know about the struggles we are having.”

ACRS Executive Director Diane Narasaki acknowledged the recent passing of community leaders Bob Santos and Ruth Woo. “They knew that together, we build community. And when we build community, we build power. When our clients take steps to reach their full potential, whether it’s through better health, education, employment, citizenship or civic engagement, they strengthen our community, even as they strengthen themselves.”

Former ACRS board member and long-time community advocate Trang Tu stepped on to the stage to share her experience of being a family caregiver for her 85 year-old mother, who lives with her. She has been joining her mother at ACRS’ Club Bamboo Senior Center for the last year and half. “Experiencing Club Bamboo reminds me that we are all one community. That ‘vulnerable senior’ could be your mother, or grandmother, or uncle, and one day, it will be all of us. There is no ‘donor’ apart from ‘beneficiary,’ there is only us, as one community, and ACRS is here for all of us.”

Later in the evening, the father of an ACRS board member, who is a long-time supporter of ACRS and lifetime friend of Bob Santos, surprised gala guests with a generous and successful challenge match in honor of Uncle Bob. “On behalf of the Santos family, we’d like to express our deep gratitude for the overwhelming generosity of our community in support of ACRS in memory of Bob,” says Diane Narasaki.

KOMO 4 News Anchor Mary Nam served as the master of ceremony.

ComcastAmerigroup, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Capital One, Crossings TV, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, United HealthcareCommunity Health Plan of Washington, Fortune Casino, SEIU Healthcare 775NW and USI Kibble & Prentice

The Genoa Foundation

HomeStreet Bank

Nirmal’s and Japonessa Sushi Cocina

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Desi 1250 AM and Starbucks

ACRS offers hope and opportunity in over 40 languages and dialects. We help transform the lives of families and individuals by helping people feed their loved ones, find jobs, access resources, gain English language and work skills, become American citizens, recover from addiction, and achieve mind and body wellness. We serve seniors and people with disabilities, and connect youth with job training and leadership development opportunities while ensuring that they and their families receive the support they need to succeed in a new land.

Our goal is to help our clients lead full and productive lives, while maintaining their dignity and respecting their cultures. We support Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and other underserved populations with advocating on behalf of themselves and their communities about issues that matter most to them.

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