Toshiko (Tonko) Doi: Building a Better Community Through Service and Connections


Produced by Sylvia Springer / SpringCross Media

We are delighted to introduce the sixth interview in our video series, featuring Ravenswood-area resident and volunteer extraordinaire Toshiko (Tonko) Doi.

Tonko, 72, shares stories about her family and community, with particular attention to her experience as a Japanese American. She was born in Los Angeles in 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor, and her family was part of the 120,000 Japanese Americans sent to internment camps in the United States.

In 1967, they moved to Chicago. Her parents owned a cleaners at 1900 W. Irving. One day a customer mentioned that his house was for sale; her parents purchased it for $18,800.

Her memories include stories about a local lunch spot that appealed to everyone (including the current mayor), Ravenswood Fellowship church, and her volunteer role as an advocate for the aging. She notes that Chicago has an Elder Justice Center, where law students volunteer their time helping seniors negotiate legal issues — and where seniors can also volunteer.

Tonko also created the Out-of-the-House Group — a social group of 12 elder men and women (including Tonko’s mother) who stayed active through field trips and activities.

“You must be active as a senior,” says Tonko, who received a Volunteer of the Year award for her work in the Japanese community.

She also plays the ukulele and recently took part in a ukulele festival in Honolulu with musicians from all over the world.

Tonko believes that volunteerism and service are the keys to aging well – a belief she lives every day!

View more Forward Chicago Profiles >


Thanks to our community members for sharing their stories! Want to be interviewed, or know someone who would? Contact us.

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