Canopy Atlanta has partnered with 285 South, which will extend and deepen community-centered coverage of local immigrant and refugee communities. Journalist Sophia Qureshi, founder and publisher of 285 South and author of this story, is a Canopy Atlanta Writer-in-Residence.
That’s how Hsiu Hisa described how she felt at the grand opening of the Chinese Community Federation of Atlanta’s (CCFA) first ever physical office on Sunday in Norcross.
And who could blame her? With drummers dressed in hot pink shirts, balloons, giant sheet cakes, and beautiful weather to match, over 100 people came together to celebrate. It was a milestone moment for the community: After 27 years of makeshift meeting places, the CCFA, a Chinese community organization that provides social services including programs for seniors, finally has an office to call its own.
“She’s happy that the seniors have somewhere to go . . . and somewhere they can have fun,” said Hsiu’s daughter Ching, translating for her, as her mother went back to passing out individually wrapped cookies to attendees at the celebration.
The need to find a physical office had felt especially urgent for CCFA President Anna Tam after the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS), one of the Southeast’s largest and oldest Asian immigrant serving nonprofits, cut its programs for seniors in early 2023. In April, 285 South reported that dozens of Asian seniors lost their regular place to gather, as well as the food and transportation provided along with it.
Tam, who used to work at CPACS, kept a scaled back version of the programs running for a few months, just so seniors could continue to socialize. At the same time, she was hunting for a new space. “I tried to find a place in DeKalb close to CPACS, because it’s more convenient,” she said. “However the rent [was] not affordable.”
She was finally able to secure a one year lease through a CCFA connection this summer. Dr. Raymond Ho, one of CCFA’s founders, suggested she speak to the property management at a complex in Norcross, where he himself has an office. “Fortunately, the landlord was willing to reduce the rent,” she said.
CCFA’s lease started in September, and the senior programs have been up and running since then (though Tam said they are open to anyone, not just the elderly). Stretching class is offered on Mondays and Chinese knotting and calligraphy on Thursdays.
Around 30 of the mostly Chinese seniors who had attended the CPACS programs have been coming to CCFA since it opened. Tam hopes that more people can join eventually, but first she needs to find more money to set up transportation for those who live farther away, and so she can provide meals for everyone. “If we have funding, we can afford [it], that’s a good thing.”
The weekend before the grand opening celebration, CCFA held a seminar for estate planning. There are so many seminars out there, she said, but they’re all in English. So the CCFA team (all unpaid volunteers) found an estate planning attorney in New York who spoke Chinese and hosted a Zoom session with her.
“I will keep asking and paying attention to see what the community really needs,” said Tam.
She was grateful that the office was starting to come together, thanks to donations from the community. “Right now we just need cabinets . . . and a paper shredder.”
But with the new space, one of the primary and consistent needs amongst Chinese seniors has certainly been met—the chance to enjoy each other’s company. “They feel good. They said staying home is lonely. Even for couples, if you just stay home doing nothing, there is more arguing, more fighting,” Tam said, laughing.
Editor: Kamille Whittaker
Canopy Atlanta is participating in NewsMatch, the national fundraising program. We break down the details of the program and how reader support makes our work possible.
GCPS Board of Education announced it would stick with a similar calendar to previous ones for the next two academic years.
“If you look at the threads of the history of Atlanta, they’re woven into that place.”