The following is a profile of Donnie Chin published in the 2009 book Seattle’s International District—The Making of a Pan-Asian American Community by author Doug Chin:
The International District is undeniably a tourist attraction. Greyhound and other tour buses grind their way through the streets during the day, occasionally stopping just enough for the tourist to take pictures of Hing Hay Park or to eat at one of the restaurants in the area.
Yet at night, flashing neon signs invite passersby into some of the same restaurants and bars. Meanwhile, down the alley, a drunk is rolled. Across the street in one of the old hotels, an old man having a heart attack is gasping for air. Soon, before Medic One gets there, a guy dressed in uniform with a first aid kit runs toward the hotel, stopping momentarily at the alley to see if the drunk is okay.
For over three decades, Donnie Chin has been a watchdog providing emergency medical services to those in the District. Well-trained in providing such services, he has won the respect of the fire department and Medic One, ambulance services, health centers, and the police.
Since 1968, when Chin was in junior high school, long before there were health clinic or social service agencies in the area, Chin realized that the police and fire department (among others) were slow to respond to District emergencies, if at all. Calling themselves Asians for Unity Emergency Squad, Chin and his friend Dean Wong started buying medical equipment and researching emergency aid programs and services.
A little later, they took up the name International District Emergency Center and began patrolling the streets, responding to medical, emotional, and personal traumas—usually before Medic One or the police reached the scene. These have included fires, shootings, assaults, car accidents, and even cut fingers. They have also responded to non-emergencies such as water leaks, blackouts, broken windows, and personal safety matters which are less pressing but nonetheless of vital concern to area residents.
While developing the Emergency Center in the early 1970s, Chin was also a leader in the now-defunct International District Youth Council fighting the Kingdome. One program that operated out of the Youth Council was the first food bank program in the District. Started by Norris Bacho, Chin operated the food program along with Annie Galarosa.
For over three decades, Chin has been a pillar in the District. Although he has garnered much praise for the hundreds of lives he has saved, and for his dedication and services, he is nevertheless an unsung hero of sorts.
Having to deal with verbal abuse from the drug pushers and junkies, prostitutes, gang members and gangsters, thugs, criminals, and other deviants in the District for years—just to help those in need—is no easy chore. Still, Chin has been doing it all for over 30 years.
Absolutely no one has saved more lives or helped make the District a safer place to live than Donnie Chin, a paramount figure in the area and community.
The International District Emergency Center is sponsoring an event to honor Donnie Chin’s life and legacy on August 15 at 2:00 p.m. at the Chong Wa Benevolent Association Playfield, 8th Avenue S and Weller Street, Seattle, WA 98104.