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Where EAST meets the Northwest

A PLACE OF REST. Ikoi No Kai, a Portland organization founded on February 14, 1979, turned 40 this year. The group was originally created for Issei, or first-generation Japanese Americans, to have a place to gather and enjoy nihon shoku (Japanese food) in the company of friends at an affordable price. The founders chose the name because of its meaning: "a place of rest." Ikoi No Kai lunches are prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients (top left photo). In addition to lunch, the organization offers blood-pressure checks (top right photo), group exercises (middle right photo), music singalongs (bottom photos), mahjong, hanafuda, and more. (AR Photos/Jan Landis)

From The Asian Reporter, V29, #09 (May 6, 2019), page 15.

Ikoi No Kai serves up hot meals and camaraderie for 40 years

Ikoi No Kai, an organization founded in Portland on February 14, 1979, turned 40 this year. The group was originally created for Issei, or first-generation Japanese Americans, to have a place to gather and enjoy nihon shoku (Japanese food) in the company of friends at an affordable price. The founders chose the name because of its meaning: "a place of rest."

Ikoi No Kai’s lunch meals are prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients. The menus usually include a traditional Japanese, American, or ethnic entrée, soup or salad, tea, and dessert. For example, April’s menu featured entrées such as oyako donburi, Korean beef noodles, chicken pad thai, panang curry chicken, and much more.

In addition to lunch, the organization holds group exercises, including qi gong, chair exercises, and stretching. Other offerings include singalongs, mahjong, hanafuda, bridge, jigsaw puzzles, and creating greeting cards. Twice per month, blood-pressure checks are provided by a volunteer nurse.

The mission of Ikoi No Kai, which operates under the 501(c)(3) Japanese Ancestral Society of Portland, is to provide inexpensive Asian lunches to the community; a meeting place for people to gather to keep them healthy, active, and alert; and a venue for networking within the community. It also seeks to promote the Japanese culture. Although it was initially founded to serve Issei, Ikoi No Kai is open to all senior members of the Asian community.

Four lunches per week

The lunch program is available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday in the basement of Epworth United Methodist Church in southeast Portland. The exercise portion of the day begins at 11:30am, the head count for food is taken at 11:45am, and then lunch is served. On the days that blood-pressure checks are offered, attendees arrive at 11:15am. For those who wish to attend, people are also invited to listen to meetings of several community organizations that meet before or after the lunches. Also of note, volunteers of the group prepare and deliver traditional bento lunches to homebound Japanese seniors in the area once per month. (Please visit the website to download the monthly schedule of dates, times, and menus.)

Ikoi No Kai relies on volunteers and donations to continue providing the program to the community. Some of the group’s volunteers have participated for 20 to 30 years. The organization currently includes five staff members and about 50 volunteers.

History

The idea of preparing hot lunches for seniors was first discussed in 1975 when members of the Japanese Ancestral Society of Portland discovered a need for such a program. Lury Sato was instrumental in moving the idea forward, working with a devoted committee that spent several years organizing and planning how to get it started, surveying community members, and lobbying Multnomah County for approval. Sato became the director of the fledgling operation to get it off the ground.

When Ikoi No Kai officially opened in February 1979, it received funding from the Older Americans Act and the program was subsidized by Multnomah County. The group operated under this model for nearly three decades. In 2009, public funding of the program was diverted to other communities. Instead of closing, members of the organization explored other sources to keep the program afloat. Donations by individual and businesses, as well as a one-time grant from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund in 2011, kept the meal program going.

Earlier this year, in celebration of Ikoi No Kai’s 40th anniversary, about 250 people attended a special fundraising banquet. The evening featured dinner and a raffle and honored the efforts of many volunteers who have helped keep the program running over the past four decades.

Ikoi No Kai is located in the basement of Epworth United Methodist Church, 1333 S.E. 28th Avenue in Portland. Parking is available in the neighborhood and in the church parking lot. TriMet bus #14 stops on S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., which is one block south of the building. TriMet LIFT and Ride Connection also offer transportation to qualifying seniors. The cost of lunch is $6 for seniors age 65 and older, $7 for adults age 64 and younger, $4 for children six to 12 years old, and $3 for children between two and five years old. To learn more about Ikoi No Kai, or to make a donation, call (503) 238-0775 or visit <www.japaneseancestralsociety.org/ikoi-no-kai>.

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