May Chen

Founder and Executive Director
Asian Services in Action, Inc.
Purpose Prize Fellow 2008

Crossing age barriers to integrate immigrant Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders into Ohio life.

May Chen, a licensed therapist, devoted her career to social service programs that bridge racial and cultural divides. When she turned 53, she wanted to do more – especially for small, forgotten populations of immigrants whose needs don’t fit neatly into state assistance programs. Inspired by the civil rights movement and memories of her Hong Kong-born parents’ battle with discrimination, Chen founded a non-profit group, Asian Services in Action, Inc. in 2000. Chen brought together children, adults and elders of Asian descent who live in Akron and Cleveland, providing them with a chance to improve English, literacy and job skills together. Chen also created Lucky Seniors, which organizes dances and other social gatherings and serves meals to Asian seniors. She enlisted elders to draw Asian and Pacific Islanders together by turning them into “cultural educators,” sharing their history and experiences with younger community members. More than 10,000 people have been helped by the organization. Chen hopes to expand the Lucky Seniors program elsewhere in the United States. “Due to cultural, language and institutional barriers, many Asian elders are leading lives that are a far cry from a quality life. Many are simply waiting for the inevitable. The challenge is to transform and support these mature adults into highly functioning and contributing members of their community.”