Austin’s Asian American Resource Center expands online programming, reaches out to lonely seniors


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Asian American Resource Center’s doors are still closed to the public because of the pandemic but its online presence is growing and with that so is its community outreach.

Leila Grace Pandy has now been at the center for about one year exactly — and what a year. She was starting her job as the new culture and arts education coordinator at the resource center when after just days at her work desk, she had to switch to working remotely.

Changes to programs followed. Pandy and staff moved all of them online.

In the center’s past fiscal year, it served more than 19,000 onsite visitors, including renting space out for festival gatherings like the Lunar New Year.

This year, doors are still closed and in-person celebrations have been temporarily halted. So, Pandy pivoted and created Lunar New Year gift baskets for seniors — one of the largest groups they serve.

One of the seniors who received a gift basket (Asian American Resource Center)

The Asian American Resource Center worked with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s Senior Transportation Program to deliver more than 250 Lunar New Year gift baskets of “cheer” into the hands of Asian American seniors around the area.

The Lunar New Year began in February for a variety of Asian cultures: Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and more.

No matter your ethnicity, the festival’s focus is family and starting the new year on the right foot.

“You can’t do anything negative,” Leila Grace Pandy said. “You have to be very positive, have to be very cheerful because the idea is you’re welcoming the new year, you’re trying to bring in as much good luck as possible.”

Personally, she doesn’t celebrate Lunar New Year being a Filipino American but knows of its importance.

Staff filled the baskets with snacks, tea, crafts, PPE, resources, and handmade cards from University of Texas volunteers.

“We decided this would be something that would bring cheer and joy to our seniors and, as I’m sure you saw through the Instagram posts, it very much did,” Pandy said. “They all really loved it.”

She said the pandemic can be a very isolating time for seniors, so they also wanted to make sure they felt connected through this physical gift.

“It made them feel like they were thought of during this time. They all were extremely appreciative… the responses warm your heart. You see the photos and they’re smiling. It’s like ‘aww.’ It reminds me of my own grandparents.”

You can learn more about the Asian American Resource Center on their website, including digital programs for seniors and youth on its website, as well as virtual galleries and activities.

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