SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) Whether it is helping seniors with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s or leading a dance class, Anni Chung has done it all, and now she is this week’s Jefferson Award winner.
For nearly 40 years, this Hong Kong native has given her time to Bay Area seniors in need, through the non-profit, Self Help for the Elderly. Chung and her staff serve nearly 40,000 seniors through out four Bay Area counties. But it wasn’t an easy road for Chung. Her conservative parents initially balked at the idea of their daughter living and working in 1970’s San Francisco.
Chung eventually convinced her parents she was going to okay in the City by the Bay, and in 1981 she became the director of Self Help for the Elderly. She hasn’t looked back, and now oversees programs spanning housing, employment training, home care, and hospice. The nonprofit even serves 300,000 hot meals a year to Bay Area seniors.
“By the time they get to Self Help for the Elderly, most of them either needed shelter or housing or food or clothing or income,” explained Chung. “Our job is to really empower the seniors to make them feel independent, strong, but more important make them feel dignified.”
Josephine Ma has been working alongside Chung for decades. Ma says Chung is an inspiration to the seniors she serves and the staff she manages.
“She’s very tough,” explained Ma. “But that’s a good thing. That’s why I learn a lot from her.”
Chung may have a tough side. but on the day she hosted KPIX 5, she greeted all of the seniors with a smile, a warm touch, and many kind words of love and encouragement. Perhaps that is because Chung sees her own mother’s face in those of the seniors she serves. Chung’s own mom lived to be 101.
”I feel really very, very close to the seniors,” said Chung. ” I could be working with the youth or children or families but somehow when I work with the seniors they just teach me so much.”
Chung says that in addition to the Asian American community, many services are provided to the Bay Area’s Hispanic and Russian communities as well. And she also pointed out that nearly 90% of her clients are low-income.
So for decades of serving seniors, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Anni Chung.