Chinese American Service League (CASL)
More than 30 years ago Ms. Bernie Wong started the Chinese American Service League. The organization grew out of a need for assistance and services for newly arrived Chinese immigrants. Ms. Wong, together with a few other volunteers from the community, decided they wanted to help. CASL’s initial efforts were in the areas of English language assistance, refugee settlement assistance, and helping people with other applications and documents required by the government and other agencies. Like in many Asian cultures, the idea of seeking assistance outside of the family or close friends was an uncomfortable concept. Year by year as CASL continued its mission the community became more accepting of the assistance and services CASL offered. After five years CASL had grown from 1 employee to 17 and was in desperate need of a larger headquarters. In less than two decades CASL’s client population grew from less than 1,000 to over 10,000 new clients. With the major increase in clients came a need to diversify and grow existing programs and initiate new ones. As the client list grew CASL became acutely away of a strong need for senior housing so in 1998 they sponsored and opened the CASL Senior Housing facility. Located near CASL headquarters, the facility allowed the seniors in the community to stay connected with all of the services CASL provides without needing to travel far.
For CASL’s 25th anniversary a new and permanent headquarters was designed and built in Chicago’s Chinatown. CASL now serves over 17,000 people annually. “We do not discriminate, anyone who needs assistance is welcome at CASL.” said founder Bernie Wong. CASL’s services are available to all who walk through their doors. From senior services to child services, CASL offers assistance and services for almost all areas of life. “We are like a one-stop-shop store. You can come here for immigration services, schooling for children, adult and senior services, medical assistance and information, and even vocational training.” said Ms. Wong. CASL’s student services, which include full school day services, after school and afternoon services, and weekend services, aim to develop students into culturally and community connected citizens of not only the Chinatown and Chinese communities, but of the greater Chicago area. With the help of the JCCC Foundation Student Development and Achievement Grant, CASL was able to fund a successful program for young students to study structural engineering.