Flamingo Garden Senior Apartments in California – A Milestone in the History of Taiwanese American Immigrants
Author: Fei-Kuang Tseng
The Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California was established 35 years ago. This huge event is truly an important page of Taiwanese American history, and thus worth recording on paper to leave as witness for history. The first generation of Taiwanese that immigrated to the U.S. worked tirelessly, taking one step at a time, passing through hardship in order to pave a new path. Each little piece of their stories should be recorded so that future generations can look back on the past and be inspired for the future. After President Han-cheng Tsai pushed for approval from the board of directors, it was decided that they should publish a “35th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California Special Issue” to celebrate. 15 years have already passed since the “20th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California Special Issue” was published! I am very glad that President Han-cheng Tsai and the board of directors that he leads are willing to work together to continue and pass on this important task, it is truly admirable!
There’s a saying that goes, “there are beautiful mountains throughout one’s life.” The early groups of Taiwanese who immigrated to America came to this paradise on earth with great ambitions, and the will to work hard. After working hard to overcome the difficulties, and with the help of a little luck, these wanderers who were once from a different world, were finally able to break through and establish families and businesses, carrying the burden of maintaining the lineage. The Taiwanese people must continue to pass their heritage down from generation to generation so that our descendants will prosper, spreading out throughout the world; today, there are Taiwanese people anywhere where the sun shines. We first-generation immigrants should take on the historical mission of passing down our traditions to our children and grandchildren. We must impart upon our descendants our great traditional customs and cultural essence, as well as our belief in respecting the elderly and virtuous, so that we can grow roots and develop here in the U.S. Founded in 1979, the Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California is one of the oldest, and one of most prosperous and lively associations in Taiwanese American history.
In 1988, some Taiwanese community members from Southern California, including community leaders An-Su Gao Lai, Kenjohn Wang, Charles Ting, Ming-chung Zhuo, Hong-yen Hsu, Cheng-tsung Chang, Chia-yu Yang, and Symeon Woo worked together to build the Flamingo Garden Senior Apartments and Taiwanese Senior Center in El Monte City. This building was created to give Taiwanese seniors in our community a place to live, as well as a place to gather for activities. Taiwanese demonstrated the strength of their collective power, thus completing the first milestone in Taiwanese American immigrant history.
“The Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California (TASA for short), from its establishment in 1979 until the first month 1983, had been renting their office and had already been forced to move three times. TASA kept being displaced and had no fixed place to call home. The third president of the association, Ms. An-Su Gao Lai, proposed to the board of directors in 1984 that the association should build a senior center and senior apartments, and she received the board’s unanimous approval. The second president, Mr. Hua-chuan Hsiao, in his desire to help take care of the association, willingly gave up his position and became vice-president. After finalizing all of this, they immediately invited the help of Kenjohn Wang, Hong-yen Hsu, Ming-chung Zhuo, Symeon Woo, Charles Ting, Chia-mo Yang and other prominent members of society. They also brought on three lawyers, Mao-ching (David) Huang, Chung-yuan Liao, and R. S. Wu as legal advisers, and Ti-sheng Yang as secretary. In total, about twenty people were in this group of consultants, formed to assist in the preparatory affairs. The initial plan: the first floor would serve as the TASA office and senior center, and all additional floors would be used as senior apartments.
In 1986, a 60,000 square foot property was purchased in El Monte. In December of the same year, pledge forms for the senior center and apartments were passed out to recruit shareholders for the “Flamingo Garden Apartments.” Even though there were all sorts of ups and downs, it was fortunate that the passionate community members continued to promote the project. Finally, on March 17th, 1987, TASA was finally able to start construction. On February 26th, 1988, the TASA office moved to the senior center (inside of Flamingo Garden). The opening ceremony, held on March 5th, 1988, was celebrated with the mayor and 500 community members in attendance. Mr. Symeon Woo said, “The purpose of constructing the Flamingo Garden was not to make a profit, but to take care of the Taiwanese elders of our community. The Flamingo Garden and TASA are like hands and feet; we should help each other.” Since it took TASA four years (1984-1988) to complete the construction of the Flamingo Garden Apartments, the Apartments gave a share of the property rights and permanent free access to the social hall and the recreation room. Flamingo Garden is a paradise for Southern California’s elderly Taiwanese. When she resigned in July of 1988, An-Su Gao Lai handed the following assets over to the fourth president, Mr. An-hsin Hsu: $18,632.04 in funds, two shares of the Flamingo Garden bought with $50,000 of fundraised money, and the rights to permanently free and exclusive use of the social hall and recreation room. I pray that God will bless the Flamingo Garden and the Seniors Association. Glory to god and his blessings for eternity.”
The above content is an excerpt from An-Su Gao Lai’s “Looking Back on Our 28 Year Journey,” published in the 1997 “Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California Member Register.”
I served as the eighth president of the association and published the “A Message from the President” in the 1997 “Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California Member Register,” outlined here: The successful completion of the Taiwanese Senior Center of Southern California and Flamingo Garden Apartments was completely dependent on the strength of Southern California’s Taiwanese community. Not a single penny was contributed by the U.S. or Taiwanese governments; rather, the project was completed through the support, unification, and cooperation of our very own President An-Su Gao Lai, Vice-president Hua-chuan Hsiao, community leaders Mr. Kenjohn Wang, Mr. Min-chung Zhuo, Mr. Cheng-tsung Chang, and many others. This building, which symbolizes a great milestone for Taiwanese American immigrants, provides a place for the elderly to live, relax, and gather. . . . For the last eighteen years, our association has been flourishing, and it is widely respected by the Taiwanese community. These are the results of the hard work put in by the association’s past presidents, directors, and members. Looking back on the past and looking forward to our future, our association’s directors believe that we should take advantage of this moment to compile important documents, event records, and photos in a new member register. . . . Thanks to the cooperation of the directors, the support of our consultants, and corporate sponsorship through advertisements, the Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California Member Register was successfully issued. Our beloved President of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui, sent us a special letter and a calligraphy scroll that reads, “Return to the fundamentals and seek the root.” We are extremely honored to have received these gifts. . . . Dear Seniors, please continue to treasure and care for our association. For the sake of ourselves and for the sake of our children, let us work hard and continue to forge ahead towards our future so that the Seniors Association can continue to develop forever and benefit our whole community.
I was elected to serve as the tenth president of the association to help expand the size of the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Establishment of the Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California, as well as to help publish the “Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California 20th Anniversary Special Issue.” The grand celebration included a banquet with more than 20 tables, and the Special Issue was filled with rich and varied content, which remains to this day a precious record of the Senior Association’s history. During my term, the board of directors decided to invest $20,000 into a joint venture with Mr. Rung-chou Hung: the El Monte Adult Day Health Care Center. Mr. Charles Ting supported this project by renting out the Taiwanese Church’s recreation room. The operation has been running smoothly and has made a profit of over $100,000 for the Senior’s association. Later, we purchased three more shares of the Flamingo Garden Company. As of today, the Seniors Association owns seven shares of the Flamingo Garden, making us the largest shareholder.
Dear my fellow Taiwanese, let us enthusiastically cooperate with one another, holding hands to protect the home of Southern California’s Taiwanese elders, cherish the milestones of the Taiwanese immigrant community, and treasure the glorious achievements of Southern California’s first generation of Taiwanese immigrants. Looking back on the past, and looking forward towards the future, most of the first-generation Taiwanese are getting older and older. I look forward to seeing how the second generation will continue to carry on towards the future, each generation becoming stronger than the one before. Not only will they be able to protect the current achievements of Taiwanese Americans, they will also pass on our traditions, expand the home for our elderly, establish a senior home, and collectively work for the benefit of our community’s elderly. They will respond to honorary president Kenjohn Wang’s call: “Our elderly should be taken care of by our own community; we should not rely on the U.S. government to do so.” (Kenjohn Wang, “The First Senior Home for Overseas Taiwanese – Flamingo Garden Apartments,” published in the 1999 “Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California 20th Anniversary Memorial Special Issue.”)
I pray that God will bless the Taiwanese American people so that we can mark many more brilliant milestones in this new age.
Excerpt from the Taiwanese American Seniors Association of Southern California 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting Special Issue.
Translated from 173. 台美人移民史的首座里程碑 / 曾輝光 /2015/09