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Church group’s heavy Pacific ties help in battle against COVID-19

Jun 18, 2020

The numbers are staggering when you stop to consider them:

Jean Okazaki

Jean Okazaki

Karen Nakamura

Karen Nakamura

  • 21 women, many of them affiliated with a Stockton church;
  • 14 of those 21 with ties to University of the Pacific;
  • 4,200-plus face masks and 235 face shields made—most of them going to help health care workers and challenged individuals such as people experiencing homelessness.

This has been a prideful labor of community caring for the contingent from Calvary Presbyterian Church in Stockton and other colleagues.

“It all started in March when many people were sheltering in place and looking for something to do to help out,” said Karen Nakamura ’77, a graduate of Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business. “It just grew from there. We now have sewers in Lodi and Galt and Sacramento.”

Non-sewers are chipping in, too.

“I cannot sew at all,” said Mary Nakamura (no relation to Karen), a staff member in the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy. “But I can cut fabric so the others can do the sewing. All of us like to be able to contribute.”

They go by the moniker the “SJ County DIY Beat Covid-19 Group.”

Trisha Fong ’14, another Eberhardt School of Business graduate, and her mother Myra Fong take part. So does Sally Tsunekawa ’72, a pharmacy school graduate. Others have children or other relatives who attended Pacific.

And then there is Susan Low, whose husband Gary, father-in-law William, children, brothers-in-law and a niece are all Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry graduates or students.

The group started working on N95 face protection. However, after manufacturing started to catch up with need, the members concentrated on cloth face masks.

“We tried to find places where there was the greatest need for the masks,” Karen Nakamura said. “Nursing homes, hospitals, cancer units. We also have supplied masks for St. Mary’s Dining Room and the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless.”

San Joaquin County Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park also called asking for a supply of masks for contact tracers, who are essential for supporting patients and tracking the course of the pandemic.

Calvary Presbyterian Church, the French Camp Japanese American Citizens League and the Lodi Rotary Foundation are the group’s major sponsors.

The group’s members with Pacific ties:

  • Karen Nakamura ’77 Business
  • Mary Nakamura, Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy staff 
  • Marcy Wong, husband Gene ’83 Pharmacy
  • Myra Fong, daughter Trisha ’14 Business
  • Trisha Fong ’14 Business
  • Sally Tsunekawa ’72 PharmD
  • Ilene Kuwahara ’80 Business 
  • Susan Low, husband and three children DDS ’76, ’12, ’14, ’19
  • Joyce Nakashima, niece Cori ’17 PharmD
  • Jeannie Sakoda, daughter Cori ’17 PharmD
  • Jean Okazaki ’76 Business, ’79 DDS
  • Dorothy Matsushino, son Jason ’08 DDS
  • Jason Matsushino ’08 DDS
  • Susan Wong, husband Kevin ’79 Biology and ’82 DDS

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