In the mid-1970s Donnie Chin and myself were full of energy and idealistic about wanting to make the world a better place, starting with the International District.
Donnie founded the International District Emergency Center (IDEC). I was right there by his side. My official IDEC patrol badge says “Founder” and has pins for 30 years of service. The years have added up since then.
We opened IDEC in Canton Alley and stocked a cabinet with canned food. When we saw street people digging through garbage cans, we gave them something to eat.
There were home-bound seniors living in ID apartments. We visited them and brought them food, while checking on their welfare.
Wearing bright red jumpsuits, our hair flowing past our shoulders, we began safety patrols around the ID. During the summer youth programs, we taught Asian youth first aid and CPR in the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce office.
Gradually Donnie took the lead in learning how to be a paramedic. His life-saving skills and the services provided by IDEC are legendary. During the years, the agency has done everything from handing out band-aids to saving people from cardiac arrest.
Literally thousands of lives have been saved by IDEC. Thousands of others have been touched by its mission to serve the people.
Donnie and IDEC volunteers have earned the respect of the Seattle Fire Department, Seattle Police and Medic One. IDEC has been honored by numerous organizations and community groups have donated money throughout the years.
Generations of kids have grown up around the center and have become volunteers themselves, proudly wearing the vests with the dragon patch and learning the value of what IDEC does.
Community events like the ID Summer Festival, Bon Odori and other functions are safer because of the IDEC aid stations.
Donnie and the IDEC volunteers have been the unsung heroes of the Asian Pacific Islander American community for well over 40 years. IDEC has operated on a shoestring budget since its inception. City funding has been key in recent years.
If Mayor Mike McGinn’s budget cuts are approved by the City Council, IDEC will be left without funding. A program that is already under-funded will be devastated.
Each and every person who has been touched by IDEC over the years should write a letter to the Mayor and the City Council demanding the protection of such a vital community asset.
To lose IDEC would be a shame and a tragic loss. We simply must rally around this program and save it. It must continue.