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Meet Our 2012 Housers' Hero, Bill Watanabe

Bill Watanabe, has been the Executive Director of the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) since its inception over 30 years ago.  LTSC is a multipurpose social welfare agency in the Little Tokyo district in downtown Los Angeles.  Starting as a one-person office, Bill, together with the Board of Directors, has developed a comprehensive program of social services, housing and community development activities, with a combined staff of over 140 employees and several volunteers.

The Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) provides such services as counseling, transportation, peer support groups, emergency assistance, health and consumer education, small business counseling, affordable housing, child care programs, and job training.

Under Bill’s vision and leadership LTSC has:

• Created various social service /counseling programs, childcare services, support groups; created first bilingual anonymous crisis helpline to provide immediate resources to those in need
• Provided assistance to over 30 community based organizations leading to the completion of 14 projects and over 600 units of affordable housing in addition to non-profit commercial space
• Provided educational and practical access to technology
• revived an abandoned historic church into a visual arts center, and home to the nationally renowned East West Players
• renovated a 100 year-old restaurant and hotel building, contributing to the vitality of Little Tokyo and Downtown Los Angeles
• Created the LA Tofu Festival that annually drew tens of thousands to downtown for 12 years
• Secured City property to begin construction of the Budokan, a multi-sports complex facility.

Bill received his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cal State Northridge.   In 1972, he made a career change and received his Masters in Social Work from UCLA and has since been an active member of the Asian Pacific community in Los Angeles. 

Bill has been founder, president, and member of several Asian Pacific community-based organizations including the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON), the largest social service network in the Asian community, and is the founder of the Asian Pacific Community Fund which has awarded several million dollars in grants.  He helped found the Little Tokyo Community Council, a collective network of small businesses and organizations within or near Little Tokyo.  He has also been President of the Asian Pacific Health Care Venture, and has served on the Board of the California Association of Nonprofits and chaired the statewide Nonprofit Policy Council of California; member on the board of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, and on the Advisory Board of the UCLA Center for Civil Society,. He is also a co-founder and current Board member of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development.   He has also served on the national Board of Amnesty International USA, a world-wide human rights advocacy organization.

Locally, he has served for many years as the Board Chairman of the Evergreen Baptist Church of San Gabriel Valley, one of the largest Asian American Christian churches in the southland.

Bill and his wife have a daughter, and they live in Silverlake near downtown Los Angeles.  He enjoys trout fishing, trivia, and Star Trek.