ABC7 Salutes

Dedicating 20 years to working with seniors

Friday, December 05, 2008

If you've ever sold Girl Scout cookies or done any other fundraising, you know how difficult it is. Imagine someone doing that for 20 years to help seniors.

It is very much like Beatrice Wong to be standing in the background as three seniors celebrate their birthdays. That is what her many friends say at On Lok, a San Francisco based non-profit that serves the health, housing and nutritional needs of elders.

Beatrice, better known as Bea, created an auxiliary called Friends of On Lok 20 years ago to help support its programs. Bea, along with more than 200 other volunteers, have raised about $2 million.

"I believe she is truly a beacon -- a steady, guiding light," says Rachel Hum, Bea's friend of 42 years who says she demonstrated early on there was no task beneath her.

"I was a custodian. I cleaned the toilets and everything at one of the clubhouses, and then next year, I was the president," says Bea.

Video produced by On Lok provides a glimpse at the comprehensive services provided to San Francisco's ethnically diverse Chinatown, North Beach and outer Mission districts.

As its programs expanded, so did the need for fundraising by volunteers.

"She herself is so organized that you don't mind helping at all. You know how sometimes you work on a project and everyone is just all over the place? Well, not Bea. She knows exactly what you are supposed to do. She knows how to delegate, and everything is just done," says Cynthia Yee, a Friends of On Lok volunteer.

The signature fundraiser each year is a Friends of On Lok fashion show.

"The richness of our program really lies with the community. It's the caregivers. It's the volunteers. It's the employed staff who we hire to really want to come and be part of a mission that is so important and so needed as part of our own community," says Graci Li, Friends of On Lok program operations manager.

Bea is herself a senior now, and a very energetic one -- she even tap dances. Bea performs as part of a group called the Grant Avenue Follies.

Her real passion, though, is handing over checks to On Lok.

"You don't say no to Bea Wong," says Yee.

Both donors and volunteers admit it is impossible to turn her down.

"The answer is always yes, and they've been very helpful," says Bea. So how does she do that without twisting arms too much? "With a smile, I guess."

ABC7 salutes Beatrice Wong, founding president and behind-the-scene leader of Friends of On Lok for two decades. She has enhanced the lives of thousands of seniors while inspiring the next generation of volunteers.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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