Stan Tsai: advocate, caretaker of all ages BIO
For the past 15 years, Stan Tsai started his Chinese New Year celebration mostly the same way, preparing for shows and exhibitions in the Lakeforest Mall, a Washington suburb shopping center.
The organization he has been associated with since 1996, Chinese Culture and Community Service Center, has an agreement with the 150-store mall to celebrate Chinese New Year with two weeks of vibrant cultural activities.
Each year the program includes not only youth showcasing traditional Chinese dance or displaying martial art skills, but also seniors on a catwalk or in disco movement. Most of the volunteers are also seniors, the group that Tsai has dedicated himself to serving for almost 20 years.
“I follow the old saying in Chinese — honor elders as we do with our own aged parents,” said Tsai, 57, who was born and grew up in Taiwan before coming to the US in 1983.
After his mother passed away in 1994, Tsai decided to devote most of his spare time to social work. The first organization he chose was CAREN (Chinese American Retiree Enterprise, Inc) Senior Center, serving Chinese-American elders in the greater Washington area, and the only type of its kind at the time.
Unlike seniors in the Chinese mainland or Taiwan, Chinese elders in the US often have no extensive family or social network that they can rely on. Many came here alone as first generation or immigrated with their adult children, leaving their culture and relatives behind and facing an aging life that is often lonely. Many also encounter language barriers when it comes to obtaining senior care provided by mainstream facilities.
Two years later, Tsai joined Chinese Culture and Community Service Center (CCACC), then a small organization with sporadic cultural activities for the local Chinese community.
Recognizing the need for senior care among Chinese Americans, Tsai has over the years helped to transform the center into one of the largest organizations in the Chinese community, providing fullfledged community services with specialization in senior care. He became its president in 1998 and chairman in 2006 and 2012.
Tsai’s own professional experience has served his volunteer mission work well. With a master’s degree in computer science received from the New York Institute of Technology in 1986, Tsai had worked mainly for US military hospitals, developing software to gather statistics from various medical facilities, including oversea bases, which then were used for resource allocation and budgetary decision-making.
“I gained a comprehensive view of the medical system and learned how to build up and manage an organization and direct resources to where they are most needed,” Tsai said, adding that his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan also has helped to his managerial success at CCACC.
Calling itself a “grassroots” organization, CCACC, has a 25,000 square-foot facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and more than 2,000 members and 60 full-time employees.
It houses an Adult Day HealthCare Center which receives funds from the US government to provide care to seniors who have disabilities or illness, including transportation, dinning, medical assistance and entertainment. Opened in 2008, the center soon expanded into the largest facility of its kind in Maryland.
“The reason for our success is we are indeed providing the service the community needs,” Tsai said, adding his vision is to launch assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, the two more advanced stages in senior care.
On top of its signature senior care, CCACC is also a de facto cultural center, offering a wide range of cultural classes and hosting events throughout the year to promote the awareness of Chinese culture. The Lakeforest Mall Chinese New Year celebration is the highlight.
State and local government officials attended the opening ceremony this year, presenting the center with appreciation certificates.
Tsai now serves as the cochair of the Montgomery County Executive Asian and Pacific American Advisory Group, often consulting with state and local governments on issues related to his community.
When Tsai learned that the county government set up MarketPlace to help immigrants learn essentials of the new healthcare law, or Obamacare, he protested the lack of someone who spoke Chinese to help callers navigate through the complexity of the system. About 10 percent of the county residents are Chinese. Six people who speak Chinese have since been added.
Tsai also founded AsianAmerican Homeownership Counseling (AAHC) during the real estate crisis several years ago and still serves as chairman. The organization provides bilingual service to help Asian Americans handle problems they encounter in the housing market. It has received generous federal grants and bank funds.
“If you do not stand out and let the government and politicians know your needs, you will not get what you need,” Tsai said, “In a participatory democracy like the US, we need to have our own voice heard therefore gain the deserved social resources to serve more people.”
Tsai therefore is active in voter registration and US Census participation in the Chinese community and often writes articles encouraging his fellow Chinese Americans to become more politically engaged.
He was the co- chair of the Organization of Chinese Americans Greater Washington DC Chapter (OCA-DC),
• 1956 Born in Taiwan • 1979 BA, Chinese Culture University, Taiwan • 1983 Comes to the US • 1986 MS, New York Institute of Technology • 1998 President, Chinese Culture and Community Service Center, Inc (CCACC) • 2006–08, 2012–13 Chairman, CCACC • 2009 –11 Co-President, OCA-DC • 2014 Director, Adult Day Healthcare Center, CCACC an organization that helps Chinese Americans become more assimilated into American society.
As the Washington representative of the New Party in Taiwan, Tsai also shoulders another mission: helping people understand Cross-Straits relations between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. He attends think-tanks’ forums and meets federal legislators, advocating that the US to stay out of Taiwan-mainland relations. Tsai said he is happy to see that people from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan share the same facility that he has helped to build.
Now retired from his professional job, Tsai became a fulltime employee of CCACC, serving as the director of its adult day care center, after many years of volunteer work there.
“Our text book always said the purpose of life is to serve,” recalled Tsai of his schooling years in Taiwan, “I guess I am doing that now.”
Stan Tsai watches seniors in his Adult Day Healthcare Center inside the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center play game.