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A Tapestry Envisioned

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.

- Carole King, "Tapestry" -

I first heard Tapestry when I was 12. I loved the song then, and I still do. It is on my current playlist. As I listened to the song several days ago, it struck me how meaningful the lyrics are for the work I am doing now: a song about life's search for meaning, its ups and downs, encounters and experiences, and the road to redemption.

Have you ever thought about your life's journey and the roads you have chosen to travel? Deciding what I wanted this new venture to be about felt like one of those "fork in the road" moments. At the time, I only knew that I wanted to do something to honor my family and carry forward their ideals, but deciding what it should be and do was a defining moment that ultimately would set the path for all that followed.

What did I envision this venture to be about? From my previous experience, I knew that the mission and objectives needed to be concise, easily understood by others, and purposeful, and although I had a vague idea of what I wanted, it was difficult to figure out where to start. So I started from the very beginning, which I heard from Julie Andrews is a very good place to start. And my starting point began by learning more about my family's community involvement and service.

As I dug into our family history, I learned that our family's community involvement spans the generations. My great grandfather, Yasutaro Itaya, was active with the Stockton Buddhist Church where he served as Board President for many years.  My grandfather, Harry Itaya, along with his brothers, started a soda fountain shop near the Stockton Buddhist Church so that people who lived near the church could come and eat.  During the Great Depression, to help French Camp farmers suffering from lost sales, Yasutaro, was able to find new markets for their products in the San Francisco/East Bay area; he also opened a small grocery store in French Camp where farmers could purchase groceries on credit. Each year at the San Joaquin County Fair, Yasutaro and Harry, set up displays to promote the agricultural products grown in the San Joaquin valley. After the war and internment, Harry volunteered as a board member on the French Camp Board of Education to help address racial discrimination and other issues that were occurring against Japanese American and other minority students.

My parents, Sam and Gladys, were ardent supporters of their church. They, along with several friends ran the Courtyard Kitchen of the Sacramento Buddhist Church for over 35 years, every church Sunday, they would prepare and serve free meals to the congregation and Sunday school children. In 2016, they were recognized by the Japanese American Citizens League and the California State House of Representatives for their service to the community. For many years, my dad served on the church's board, volunteered as the church's maintenance man, and was involved with the church’s scouting program. He was recognized by the Boy Scouts of America for his contributions and leadership; first, in 1986 with the District Award of Merit, and then in 2014, with the Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service award. In his later years, during the Christmas and New Year's holiday, he would sit in front of the Oto Food Market and sell mochi (rice cakes) in support of the church's sports programs.

My brother, Jeff, was a staunch supporter of many San Francisco community organizations supporting violence prevention and youth development, strengthening community networks, and creating academic and career pathways for disadvantaged students; he was passionate about writing and film making, especially regarding Asian Americans and social justice; and he was a patron of Asian Americans in the arts, establishing the Asian American Arts Foundation in 1995. As for me, being a past leader within the Aerospace industry, I am a supporter of early childhood STEM education; in memory of my two uncles (Ray and Richard) who succumbed to cancer, I am a contributor and volunteer at the local chapter of the American Cancer Society; and a longtime supporter of senior services organizations such as Keiro in Los Angeles. Learning about senior care services has become even more of an imperative as I began facing the challenges associated with caring for aging parents.

The difficulty I found myself in was how to weave these diverse interests into a cohesive, simple mission and focused set of objectives. No problem, right?

(To be continued)

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