Chinese Social Service Center brings elders together


After a few years of running ESL, Citizenship, Social Work and Counseling services without a permanent office, the Chinese Social Service Center (CSSC) now has a home at 4500 Lyndale Avenue North, Minneapolis.

Ms. Yi Li You, LSW, executive director, is a licensed counselor and also works full time as a contracted on-call Chinese interpreter. She is pleased that CSSC will now be in a better position to focus on disadvantaged Chinese immigrants, those with limited English and cultural barriers, or who cannot identify or locate services and resources.

After volunteering with area Chinese organizations, Yi founded the Twin Cities Chinese Counseling Center in 2002, to help immigrant Chinese in capacities that are not offered by most Chinese community organizations.

In 2005, the organization changed its name to Chinese Social Services Center to better reflect its expanded services with the elderly, ESL, Citizenship and Social Services.

Without a permanent home, the CSSC board sought and received a $10,000 grant from The Otto Bremer Foundation in 2005 for staff and board training and fund raising; and a $5,000 MoneyGram International – Global Giving grant in 2006 to start additional ESL classes and to lease office space for classes and other social services for immigrant families.

These funds then brought about a search for a permanent office. The Lyndale building offers a small office space, but shared amenities to include a boardroom, a kitchen and dining room.

Outside of the classes, the CSSC now holds monthly elderly potluck get-togethers, organized by Mrs. Ma Zhen (Jenny) Cheng and Mr. Shengju Qin. The two arrange for a speaker to provide health, nutrition, citizenship, or other helpful information, then serves as a phone tree to get information and feedback from the elders.

In May, Dr. Zhu Zhen Qing, a retired brain surgeon, spoke to the group about how to keep a healthy brain through nutrition and mental exercises. He also explained how to recognize the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and how it differs from Dementia and other brain illnesses associated with aging.

In June, Dr. Cheng Chen, a retired family practitioner now living in Roseville, spoke about cancer prevention through physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices.

One elder, Wu Wenxi, said that the seniors like to get together, and this is the only opportunity for most of them to meet with community outside of their families.

Ms. Sun Xiao Yan came to the U.S. eight years ago to earn her MBA at the University of St. Thomas and now works in St. Paul. She found out about CSSC when looking for activities for her parents visiting from China for the summer.

Sun was pleased that they could be in the company of people of their generation and from China while she was working or to accompany them to activities on weekends. She plans to stay on as a volunteer even after her parents return home.

A special guest included Jiang Yongqiu, 86, a retired professor from Xi’an, who earned his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in the 1940s and returned to China to develop engineering programs and to lead theoretical and practical projects for the next 47 years, mainly at Xi’an Jiaofeng University and Beijing University.

Dr. Jiang and his wife Huifen Zho returned to Minnesota in 1997 to be near their daughter. Yet, he continues to work with the University of Minnesota in establishing China partnerships with multiphase flow engineering programs.

Some of the volunteers include Moni Li, originally from Fushou and learned about the organization when she brought her mother to receive help with social services.

Shan Liu, from Giang Jiang, and her spouse Zack Chapple are both personal finance specialists who looked around for an Chinese organization that needed volunteers.

“This group needed the most and we just wanted to help out,” said Chapple.

The three do a lot of driving for the elders’ appointments and events.

With just a minimum of materials, CSSC has helped many people adequately prepare and pass the Citizenship examination. Many are senior citizens, parents of children who made their way to Minnesota to work or study. With more funding they hope to increase and improve the study materials and training aids.

“They study very hard and in just four months we can see real improvement,” said Yi Li You. “In a mainstream class they might not understand without translation – especially for the elders.”

Current ESL and citizenship classes are being held in St. Paul and Eden Prairie.

Yi’s goal is to conduct a community needs assessment on the Chinese community of Minnesota. There have been previous studies, but on a limited scale, she said. They are slowly developing useful data with information from the students about there status, and hopes that this sampling will help demonstrate the need for a comprehensive study of the needs of the immigrant Chinese community.

CSSC could use a lot of material donations, including a van to drive the elders around, a television and DVD or Karaoke machine, Mahjong and Chinese chess games and some furniture.

Yi Li You can be contacted at 952-200-8972 or