Best of Seattle 2010: Miguel Saldin

Best Pan-Asian Club Maven

A burbling fountain greets visitors to the headquarters of Asian Counseling and Referral Services in the Rainier Valley. It's soothing, sedate, and a bit misleading. Peek inside the gym and you'll catch the action at Club Bamboo, where seniors are line dancing and whacking ping-pong balls.Miguel Saldin is the man behind the club. In the late '70s, ACRS helped his mother find work and housing in Seattle after she emigrated from the Philippines. Now he assists other immigrants like her—recent arrivals who may not have many connections in Seattle."The aging adult population, it's something overlooked," he says. "I like spending time with the elders and hearing their stories."Wendy Nguyen moved from Baltimore to Seattle two years ago after retiring, and now helps teach Club Bamboo's ESL classes. "[As] we get older, we need to have some friends, or at least a group to join," she says, "instead of staying home faced with four walls all the time."On its busiest days, Club Bamboo attracts as many as 80 seniors. They come for the $1 (suggested donation) lunches—which in a typical week might include spicy pork tacos, Hawaiian da kine burgers, and bok choy apple slaw. Saldin says people from the neighborhood often pay the $5 charge for outsiders so they can eat what the seniors are having.In addition to daily table-tennis matches and dance lessons twice a week, Club Bamboo runs computer and ESL classes, an assortment of exercise programs, clay-flower-making workshops, and karaoke every Friday."You'll see Vietnamese and Chinese in an intense match of table tennis," says Saldin, 32, whose own mom is still working and so not yet a Club Bamboo regular. "Just all of these ethnicities enjoying lunch together."The staff is multiculti as well. "There's always so many different languages spoken," Saldin says. "Or someone brings a special treat from their culture to the office. It's like, 'Oh man, I've never tried that before!'"By the time he's ready to leave Club Bamboo and ACRS, Saldin may be as old as the seniors he serves. "I'll probably retire here," he says.  

 
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