Written by: Makoto Kotani, Program Manager

On my second day of work at Keiro in the summer of 2017, I found myself attending a Keiro Grants workshop conducted at Venice Japanese Community Center. This was my first glimpse into both Keiro’s Grants Program and the community’s commitment to serving older adults. Having worked at a for-profit company, the concept of providing Japanese American and Japanese community nonprofits with funding to support programming was foreign and piqued my interest. Just like the community members in attendance at the workshop, I knew I had a lot to learn.

Makoto giving a presentation at Caregiver Conference in Pasadena

Fast-forward two and a half years and I now manage the Grants Program and have seen three cycles of grant-funded projects to completion. During my involvement with this program, I have seen firsthand how these organizations are serving their communities while utilizing Keiro’s resources to conduct programs beyond what we can do alone as an organization. The focus on reducing social isolation and loneliness among our community’s older adults and caregivers has allowed Keiro to shed light upon a key issue in the aging community while sharing the importance of socialization and staying connected.

Working on the Grants Program has allowed for dozens of new connections with community leaders, even more site visits and follow-up conversations, hundreds of emails, and countless opportunities to see and hear all about the great work that is being done to support older adults. I continually reflect on the power of connections in our community and the level of commitment that our partners have towards positively affecting the quality of senior life for their members.

Makoto giving a presentation at Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple

Innovative and socially engaging programs have connected me with passionate community leaders like Carolyn Yano of Long Beach Japanese Cultural Center and Sue Kawasaki representing Continuing Education for the Nikkei Widowed. They both exude passion for their groups and I have had the pleasure of working with countless other leaders and volunteers who serve older adults. Hearing stories about Long Beach members celebrating 101st birthdays surrounded by friends and family at a social luncheon or presenting information for a gathering of over 50 widows and widowers with a focus on learning and staying socially connected, help illustrate the Grants Program’s impact.

These are only two of the many stories that I have heard and observed covering the Grants Program. The impact of the different programs supported through the grant partnership is unquestionable, but there is always more to learn and improve. As I reflect back on my time with this program thus far, I have the unique perspective of seeing proposal ideas translate into finished and working programs. Getting to witness these projects firsthand, I am encouraged and inspired to continue in this work to serve older adults because I know so many leaders are out there doing the same.

Makoto presenting a check to a grant recipient