An on-stage cooking demonstration by Chef Melissa King, Top Chef Season 12 Finalist at the ACRS gala on October 3, 2015. • Courtesy Photos
An on-stage cooking demonstration by Chef Melissa King, Top Chef Season 12 Finalist at the ACRS gala on October 3, 2015. • Photos by Naomi Ishisaka

The following is an announcement from ACRS:

Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) held its annual gala, A Culinary Journey, on Saturday, October 3 at The Westin Bellevue. Over 500 community leaders, elected officials, ACRS supporters and volunteers took part in a benefit dinner featuring remarks from U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), client stories and an on-stage cooking demonstration by Chef Melissa King, Top Chef Season 12 Finalist.

With Presenting Sponsor Comcast, this year’s gala raised over $200,000 and highlighted stories from and about ACRS clients in their own words. Club Bamboo client Kennedy came to ACRS when he was very sick and unable to walk without assistance. At Club Bamboo, he found nutritious and familiar hot ethnic lunches along with friendships and physical activities that helped him regain mobility, and break through social isolation and depression. Tien, a past client of ACRS’ youth programs, told gala guests about how ACRS helped him successfully overcome bullying, and the pressures of being the “perfect Asian son” that had driven him to contemplate suicide. Teresa and Edward, who are 73 and 80, respectively, connected with our aging and adult programs to find a homecare worker to provide the intensive level of day-to-day assistance that Edward now needs, and in so doing, they both found renewed confidence and much needed relief.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell made a special appearance at the gala and thanked Diane Narasaki for her 20 years of leadership to ACRS as executive director. Cantwell also thanked gala guests for supporting ACRS, “With all that’s happening in the world, we don’t need any more reminders of how critical mental health services are.” ACRS provides one door through which Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and others can find the resources they need for youth, employment, citizenship, mental health counseling, recovery from substance abuse, or support for seniors and people with disabilities.

Executive Director Diane Narasaki spoke to gala goers about ACRS’ mission and work that is focused on social justice and helping clients become strong advocates on the issues that matter most to them. Narasaki highlighted climate change as an issue that affects AAPI communities uniquely, “Our families are often trans-Pacific and trans-continental. Family members in the Pacific Islands are losing their homes and nations to rising seas…while here in our neighborhoods, heavily polluted air from carbon emissions wreak havoc on the health of our most vulnerable community members. We are rooted in our community, but we embrace our fragile planet and all who live upon it, because all things are interconnected.” Through year round programs serving youth to elders, ACRS clients are learning the skills to speak and be heard on issues such as these.

Celebrity Chef Melissa King provided an on-stage demonstration of her custom designed dish and expressed her excitement about being able to support ACRS. She told the audience how she wished her late grandmother could have had access to the culturally relevant and in-language services that ACRS provides, “my grandmother fell ill right before I filmed Top Chef, and it was difficult to find a caretaker that spoke Chinese. If we just had that support that ACRS offers at that time, it would have been really helpful.” King also commended ACRS on providing a safe and supportive place for LGBTQ youth, which is another resource that she would have benefited from growing up as a lesbian Chinese-American. Seattle Times editorial writer and columnist Thanh Tan along with former King 5 reporter Derek Wing served as the masters of ceremony.

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