Running for Chinatown Amidst a Pandemic

Posted on: May 12th, 2020 at 5:05 am by

Photo: Karlin Chan

Chinatown shopkeepers and restaurateurs have seen a steep decline in business since January, largely the result of xenophobia related to the Covid-19 outbreak overseas, as well as the devastating fire at 70 Mulberry Street.

Tourism to the neighborhood dropped in the ensuing months to levels not seen since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with restaurants cutting staff and hours to save money. Scrambling to raise revenues, many offered discounts of up to thirty-percent, yet many eventually closed anyway due to the public gathering ban and stay-at-home orders.

Something had to be done to bolster the few remaining restaurants open. Chinatown natives Victoria Lee and Jennifer Tam collaborated to create “Welcome Chinatown,” a not-for-profit volunteer startup with a mission to raise awareness. It promotes businesses still operating and fundraises to provide meals to first-line workers at area hospitals sourced from Chinatown restaurants. In the weeks since inception, “Welcome Chinatown” has raised nearly $120,000 via GoFundMe, and provided over 5,000 hot nutritious meals to grateful hospital staff.

On May 2, another Chinatown native literally stepped up to bolster the fundraising efforts of “Welcome Chinatown” with his “12 hour run for Chinatown.” This charity run raised funds for Welcome Chinatown thru sponsors and pledges for each mile completed.

Leland Yu, the 28-year-old member of the Chinese Freemasons Athletic Club, began his day early by strapping on his running shoes and stepping out into a wet dreary morning. Twelve hours later, he ran into the heart of Chinatown on Mott Street to complete this herculean feat. Astonishingly he ran 61.2 miles and raised an amazing $18,000+ according to posts on “Welcome Chinatown” and the “Chinese Freemasons athletic club” Facebook and websites.

Chinatown will come out of this pandemic with a new reality, but it’s reassuring to have these youngsters in our corner slugging away.

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