For more than 58 years, Pasadena Buddhist Temple has been a
place not only for practitioners of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, but also a gathering
place for the local Japanese American community and senior groups to
participate in cultural, social, and other events.
Yet over the years, the temple began to notice a decrease in
participation. Board member Shelley Yamane Shinmoto recalls, “It was not even
the social events. Our Nisei parents were having trouble coming to temple
services. We have a small congregation, but more seniors started to not attend.”
When they asked their 150-member congregation why some
members had not been attending, they found that there were serious deterrents
that prevented people from returning to the temple.
“The AC was spotty throughout the temple, and nonexistent in
the gym. It was uncomfortable for everyone,” says Shelley. “The second
deterrent was the restrooms. Before, the stalls and the whole area were just
poorly designed and narrow.”
The temple Board realized the current bathroom did not allow
wheelchairs to fit in the stalls, which was not compliant with the American with
Disabilities Act. Those who needed assistance struggled and spent a lot of time
just using the restroom. Many Nisei were self-conscious of potential accidents
but rather than complain, they decided not to come, even if they had their son
or daughter to help them.
The temple knew this was an important issue to address. “As
we look at the future of the temple and the role it plays, it has become a lot
more evident that we need[ed] to renovate,” adds Shelley. “Because we have this
huge facility, it’s important as a community center that we have the facilities
set up so that we can have more programs.”
In recent years, the temple began collaborating with local
churches and groups for joint events such as the First Presbyterian Church
Altadena and the Pasadena Nikkei Seniors. The large temple facility, with its
spacious parking and older adult friendly slopes, is often a gathering place
for many local organizations to host major events, and they wanted to continue
being that kind of location.
It was then that the temple found out about the Keiro Grants
Program. They expected to finish their project quickly, but found many
obstacles over the course of a year before finally finishing in March 2018.
The first step was to solicit bids and select an architect, for
which they had several options through Keiro and other community referrals. Within
a month, they found an architect who was very accommodating to the temple’s
specific needs, and the design was submitted to the city and approved without
The biggest challenge was finding a general contractor on
the organization’s limited budget – a process that took about six months. Shelley’s
husband Scott says, “Normally the general contractor oversees everything but
they would have subcontractors, and costs would build up.” They found a
solution to this by having Scott take on the role of supervising the
subcontractors. They decided to have one lead subcontractor, with referrals to other
subcontractors for plumbing, partitions for the stalls, and some of the
appliances. By October 2017, they obtained all the building, electrical,
plumbing and mechanical permits from the city. Construction began the following
Among some of the new features at the temple are automated
water faucets and auto flush toilets in the renovated restrooms. Shelley
recalls, “I initially thought ‘we don’t need that, that would be expensive,’
but I didn’t realize it’s really because the older people lose balance [trying]
to flush the toilet.” The automated features are helpful for those in wheelchairs
who cannot stand up to turn the water on.
“What you do notice is
how quickly we become so fragile,” says Shelley, noting that the renovation was
beneficial for herself and her peers as well. “It’s interesting that we are old
and we joke about it but seriously, it’s all of us, we are all aging; right now
is when you start to feel the effects of aging, so any kind of support we can
do to make life transition easier for everybody, would be helpful.”
And now that the renovations are complete, the temple’s
members are excited to use the facility for more activities in the future.
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