Sunday, July 30, 2006

Building Renovations

You know all those steel and wood supports on the part of the building where the windows are being cut out? Well, in the main building they're also putting in more supports to hold the brick wall to the rest of the building. They had to drill holes through the support beams to tie them to the exterior wall using these really long bolts. Don't think they sell these at Home Depot!

In other news, all that planning around the voice and data cabling (see July 7 post) worked out and we now have boxes in each office to hook everything up to. They've also installed the fire alarms. These are the modern kind with flashing strobes and sound so even our most hearing impared friends can be safe.

Friday, July 28, 2006

International Examiner

This article appeared in the July 19 issue of the International Examiner.

CISC moves on up to new site
Category/Issue: News, Volume 33 No. 14

Examiner Contributor

Jin-Tao Xiong, a Chinese immigrant who came from Guandong province 21 years ago, is a regular visitor at the Sunshine Garden Senior Day Care Center, coming every day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After Xiong’s husband passed away, the center has become an essential part of her life. Now, not only is she a client of the center, participating in activities like Tai Chi, singing, and knitting, but she is also a volunteer, teaching other seniors Cantonese and Mandarin.

The Sunshine Garden Senior Day Care Center is operated under the Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC), which is currently located in the Bush Hotel of the International District. With its original mission to bridge cultures, communities and generations for Chinese immigrants and their families to succeed, CISC has grown since 1972 to provide services to the Vietnamese as well as other Asian communities.

Looking at Xiong and Dai-Fan Tao, a fellow client at the center, one can hardly tell that Xiong is 84 years old and Tao is 90. They both look active, happy and healthy. And they live independently by themselves in apartments in the ID.

“I feel so happy coming here every day. There are classes and activities for me to join all the time,” Xiong expressed in Mandarin. “And right now my friends [at the center] are waiting for me to have dim-sum together.”

Now that the local Asian American community has become more spread out, CISC has been working hard to reach their clientele. CISC offers programs and activities at various sites, including Seattle, Redmond, Bothell and Bellevue.

While CISC envisions its International Family Center, currently located in the ID, to operate as a hub, it has found its Seattle-based resources confusing for some clients, as services are provided at three different locations within the ID. For example, as ESL Literacy Program Coordinator Tsai-En Cheng pointed out, her students attend class at the International Family Center, which is in the Pacific Rim building on South Jackson Street. But if they need her, the students must go to the Bush Hotel to meet her.

For some, the distance between the Bush Hotel and the Pacific Rim building is a pleasant walk; for others, given that some of the ESL students at CISC are seniors or parents with infants, the distance is not so convenient.

In order to centralize its resources, CISC has started the Moving On Up Campaign, which raises money for the organization to move to a new location at 611 S. Lane Street this November. The new location will double the current size, providing space for all their ID offices to be housed in one building.

“We want to consolidate all our different sites, and that will save money because we will also save time just going back and forth,” said Alaric Bien, CISC executive director.

CISC’s future home will look brand new, unlike the current main office where the carpet is unclean and the building has no air conditioning. Bien said, “It will be a lot more welcoming, friendly and respectful to our clients, staff and volunteers.”

With limited human resources and funding, CISC strives to offer the most excellent quality services possible. Its primary programs can be divided into five categories: Advocacy & Training, Crime Victims, Elderly Services, Employment, and Family and Youth. These programs add up to about 50 individual services provided to 5,000 clients a year by only 35 staff members.

With these impressive statistics, CISC also tailors its services to meet different client needs. As Bien recalled, they once got a request from a Chinese lady who needed someone who could speak Shanghainese, and help her cook Shanghainese-style cuisine three times a week. Luckily, CISC found someone who fit the criteria.

CISC has specific cultural and linguistic capacities to serve its clients from diverse backgrounds. Bien said, “It’s not something you can normally get if you go through a mainstream agency.”

For Cheng, who has worked for CISC as an ESL teacher for almost four months, the impact that CISC has on her students is pretty significant. Cheng said some of her students have acquired enough English skills to give them confidence to shop at American stores. They no longer have to travel all the way to the ID for groceries. Now, they are always excited to see Cheng, for they appreciate her teaching that has made a difference in their lives.

Cheng’s teaching experience has been so rewarding that she turned down a job offer to teach ESL classes at a community college — an opportunity not often offered to a non-native English speaker.

It is the colleagues like Cheng that keeps Bien enthusiastic about his job. Bien says that all the people working at CISC are very dedicated to their clients despite the underpaid salaries. To Bien, CISC is like a family, where everyone pulls together and works extremely hard.

“People are here because they want to be here,” said Bien. “We are not doing this for money.”

The Moving On Up Campaign presents its final 10 percent fundraiser on Sunday, July 30 at 6 p.m. New Kowloon Restaurant. Tickets are $25. (206) 624-5633 x117,

Thursday, July 27, 2006

That Big Hole

Remember that big hole they cut into the roof last week? The one for the monitor? Well, they're already starting to build the monitor and have framed about 1/2 of it so far. From the inside, it really opens up the space and lets lots of light into an otherwise dark and enclosed work area.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Maximum Flexibility

That's what we're going for in our new space. The International Family Center will have flexible, multipurpose space that can be easily divided into 2 large classrooms, 2 smaller rooms and/or one large activity area. Here we are checking out some sample soundproof wall panels. This will mean that we will be able to have community meetings, legal clinics, ESL classes all happening at the same time without having to shout over everyone else.

Similarly, Sunshine Garden will have operable partitions so that the space can accommodate 2 different activities at a time, and the International Community Technology Center will be dividable into a larger lab and a smaller lab, or combined into one. Cool!

The panels are thin, but very sturdy and block sound well.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Let there be light

This week, besides continuing work on cutting out windows on the north end of the building (International Family Center, Sunshine Garden Senior Day Center, and International Community Technology Center), a giant hole was cut into the roof of the main part of the building to allow for a monitor with clerestory on 3 sides.

Yeah, we didn't know what this meant when we first heard it either. Basically, they cut a section of the roof out, bump it up about 4 feet, and put windows on the sides. This will let natural light into the main part of the office which has no windows. With the sunny (and HOT!) weather the last few days, you can really see how much more light there will be when the remodel is done.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Windows at Last

Take a look at this! They started cutting the windows out of the brick part of the building yesterday. You should have seen all the stuff falling down into the parking lot below!

This part of the building will hold the International Family Center on the 2nd floor, and Sunshine Garden Senior Day Center and the International Community Technology Center on the 3rd floor.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

We have electricity! (sort of)

The electrician has started work on the site and is putting in all the wiring and junction boxes. We're still working with the furniture installation guy to figure out just exactly how to get electricity to the 30-odd workstations in the main staff work area. It's (of course) more complicated than it seems.

Spent a lot of time at yesterday's construction meeting talking about the new roof. Seems that doing a pitched roof will add about $240,000 to the cost of the project (yikes!), so we're just going to replace the existing flat roof and add some additional drainage. Roofers will be tearing off the current 3 roofs over the next month.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sunshine Garden Seniors

Just wanted to share this photo of Sunshine Garden seniors on stage Saturday at the International District Summer Festival. Here they are doing the Electric Slide. Average age of these ladies is 74 (the oldest is 81!). Let's just hope we have half as much energy when we get old!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Windows Part 2

We lied. There won't be scaffolding covering the warehouse side of the building after all. Instead, the contractor will be using a lift to cut out the holes for the windows. You can see where they've put in steel supports to hold the wall up in addition to the wood framing inside the building to support the ceiling. Come on down the Chinatown on Wednesday and watch them cut big holes out of the side of the building!

In addition, we met with our cabling contractor Friday (the one in the back that looks like he's got a headache) to figure out exactly where all the data and voice hookups go. Of course, it's much more complicated that it seems at first glance. Not only do we have to plan for 50+ staff, the International Community Technology Center (which will have 10 PS's, 3 Macs, and 2 Linux machines, by the way), and other public spaces, but also try to figure out what our needs may be 30-60 years into the future!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Summer Festival

This doesn't have anything to do with our construction project, but we figured if you were interested enough to be here, you might be interested in the annual Chinatown/International District Summer Festival.

It's this Saturday and Sunday, July 8 and 9. Sunshine Garden seniors are again kicking off the entertainment at 11:00 on Saturday with demonstrations of Tai Chi, sword play, and more. Come join us in Hing Hay Park, hang out and enjoy the weather!

Monday, July 03, 2006

New Windows

Take a good look at this photo because it's one of the last times you will see the warehouse side of the building look like this.

In a couple of days, scaffolding will go up all around this brick part of the building and work will begin to cut out several new windows - 18 to be exact! This is the only part of the new space that will have windows looking to the outside. Here are the reinforcements on the inside so the walls won't collapse when the start cutting through the brick.

On the main part of the building, there will be several skylights added and we will also cut a 60' x 16' hole in the roof, push it up and put windows around the side to let in some natural light. Should be pretty cool when it's done!