Local Hero: Bill Yoshiyuki Watanabe

Bill Watanabe

"As a Christian and a professional social worker, I have committed my life to helping those in need and strengthening our communities."

Bill Yoshiyuki Watanabe founded the Little Tokyo Service Center in 1979, a Community Development Corporation (LTSC CDC). His compassion and loyalty to meeting the needs of the community has been at the heart of the nonprofit organization.

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Under his leadership, LTSC CDC has grown from a one-person office to a center with a staff of more than 150 and a legion of volunteers. It provides a comprehensive program of social services, including counseling, transportation/translation program for seniors, peer support groups, emergency assistance, health and consumer education, small business counseling, affordable housing, child care programs and community/economic development.

Mr. Watanabe spearheaded the renovation of hundreds of units of affordable housing for seniors and families in downtown and central Los Angeles; the revitalization of an abandoned historic church into a visual arts center, and home to the nationally renowned East West Players; the renovation of a 100 year-old restaurant and hotel building, contributing to the vitality of Little Tokyo and Downtown Los Angeles; and matched about 300 Asian Americans with life-saving bone marrow transplants through the recruitment of more than 200,000 potential bone marrow donors.

Mr. Watanabe's dedication to the community extends beyond LTSC CDC. He has served as president of the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON), the largest social service network in the Asian community and the Asian Pacific Health Care Venture. He was also founder of the Asian Pacific Community Fund, which has awarded more than $2 million in grants.

He has served as chairman of the statewide Nonprofit Policy Council of California and Evergreen Baptist Church of San Gabriel Valley, one of the largest Asian American Christian churches in the southland. In addition, Mr. Watanabe has served as a board member of several organizations, including National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, UCLA Center for Civil Society, Amnesty International USA and National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, which he was also co-founder.

In June 2012, Mr. Watanabe retired from his position as executive director of LTSC CDC. Although this remarkable milestone brings an end to Mr. Watanabe's extraordinary work at LTSC CDC, it is without a doubt that he has planted the seeds for a better community for years to come.


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