Good People Doing Good Things — Betty Kwan Chinn

You are going to fall in love with today’s ‘good person’ …gateway-to-life.pngHer name is Betty Chinn, and as you may have already guessed, she is originally from China.  I’ll let her tell you about the days of her childhood …

Betty-Chinn“I was born in a very good family. I’m one of 12 kids. And then in the 1960s, they had the Cultural Revolution. My mom was a US citizen and a Western educator. My mom believed in God, religion. Because my parents had religion and education, my family was a target for the government.

I was separated from my family and I lived on the street by myself. I had to wear a sign on my neck that said, ‘I’m a child of the devil.’ I had nothing to eat, hungry all the time. Every time when I asked for food, I was beaten up by people. Torture, separation from my family, abandoned, betrayal … this all happened at a very young age.

My sister took me out of the country … and then to Hong Kong. I did not know my birthday.

I had never been to school. I stayed home. Then I found my best friends on Sesame Street. They were the ones who taught me English.

Each day when I get up in the morning, I get moving, that’s my birthday. I am celebrating my birthday every single day when I can move, and I can breathe. I have my freedom. That’s the way I look at it.”

And now that you know how Ms. Chinn got her start in life, let’s take a look with what she is doing today.  Eventually Betty was sent to live with a sibling in California and settled in the town of Eureka in Humboldt County.  Married to now-retired Humboldt State University physics professor, Leung Chinn, the couple had two sons, and it was this that would spark Betty’s passion for helping others.

One day in 1984, while volunteering at her son’s elementary school, one of his classmates complained that she was always hungry.  Betty began putting an extra sandwich in her son’s lunch for the girl, only to discover a few days later that the girl and her family were homeless, living out of their car. So, Betty began sending extra food for the family, as well.  Although she didn’t realize it yet, she had just started down the path that would last for the rest of her life. She began observing people in the town and was shocked to see how many other people were in the same situation and decided to make it her mission to provide for the less fortunate in her community.

“I’d do anything I could do to make people not hungry. When I even hear somebody say, ‘I’m hungry,’ my stomach hurts. I feel the hunger inside me. I still remember the hunger.”

She used income from her part-time job to buy food, which she would load into her car and deliver to people living on the street, under bridges and highways, anywhere she could find them. At first, she didn’t tell anyone about what she was doing – not even her husband.

“He did ask me, from time to time, ‘Why are you cooking so much food? Why we buy so much food from the supermarket?'”

He eventually found out – ten years later – and is now her biggest supporter!

Though she never publicized what she was doing, Chinn’s efforts were noticed and appreciated. In 2008, she received the Minerva Award for remarkable women from California’s first lady, Maria Shriver, which included a $25,000 prize.  By now, I’m sure you can guess that Betty did not spend that money on new clothes and a lavish vacation, right?  Nope, she built showers!  Yep, you heard me right … showers.  The following March, she opened Eureka’s first (only) free public shower facility, with the mantra “Providing Dignity One Shower at a Time”.

In 2010, she was one of 13 recipients of the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal from President Barack Obama, the nation’s second highest civilian award. She was honored for showing how one person can touch the lives of hundreds of people whom the rest of the world has forgotten.Chinn-Obama-2010It was at that point that she started dreaming of opening a “Betty’s House,” a type of central location where she could help clients keep warm and fed while connecting them with a variety of services housed under one roof.  Four years later, this dream culminated in the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center which houses Betty’s commercial kitchen, helps clients connect with services, jobs and housing, while also offering after school care, wellness courses, and educational programming for homeless children.day-center.pngBut Betty didn’t stop there!  In 2016, she opened Betty’s House, a family shelter that provides transitional housing up to 8 families at a time, giving them the stability, services, and support needed to find a permanent place to live. The shelter’s downstairs, operated in partnership with St. Joseph Hospital, offers a space for up to 10 homeless people recently discharged from the hospital to convalesce under a nurse’s 24/7 care.betty-house-front.png

Betty-house-1

Betty-house-2Betty-house-3But we’re still not done …

Also in 2016, as the city of Eureka was working to clear its largest homeless encampment from a greenbelt near the bay, Betty partnered with the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights to convert some old Connex shipping containers into a housing village, known now as Betty’s Blue Angel Village, that shelters up to 40 people at a time while offering intensive wrap around services aimed at transitioning them into permanent housing situations. It is one of few shelters on the West coast that allows animals.Village-1Village-2There is so much more I could write about Betty Chinn … this woman … this woman is so good, has done so much for her community, that my words feel inadequate to describe her.  Betty arises at 2:07 every morning, ready to go, seven days a week, rain or shine.  I recommend paying a brief visit to her website, The Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation, where you will find additional information, photo galleries and more.

In 2015, she received yet another award from President Obama …2015-Chinn-ObamaLast week, Ms. Chinn was named one of CNN’s Heroes … an honour well-deserved. In addition to American recognition, Betty has received commendations from China and is hailed as the “Hong Kong Angel.”  And around Humboldt County, she is known as the ‘Chinese Mother Teresa’.  Eureka’s police chief, Andrew Mills, described her as a philanthropic force of nature. “It’s a humbling experience just to sit in her presence.”

Heck, I found it humbling just to research and write about this woman … I am in awe.  If I had a third, I would give this woman three thumbs up, but as I have only two, I shall give her both.  Thank you, Betty Kwan Chinn, for making such a wonderful difference in the lives of so many!  👍👍

32 thoughts on “Good People Doing Good Things — Betty Kwan Chinn

  1. Wow, what a fantastic woman. Do you think she would like to be President? People like her can make such a huge difference. And the Betty’s of this world really do know what humanity means. The current administration can’t even spell it!

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    • I doubt she would want to set foot anywhere near the White House, but I guarantee if she were president, things would be a lot different. It’s the Betty’s of this world who give us the hope we need to keep standing strong against a highly corrupt government and fighting for equality and justice. Someday, perhaps, although I’ve come to seriously doubt.

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  2. What a perfect example of someone “rising from the ashes”! Betty Kwan Chinn is one of the most selfless individuals on earth. “What you become depends on what you can overcome.” – Anthony Douglas Williams. Betty has more than overcome, she has triumphed. Thank-you!

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    • She is, isn’t she? I always find good people for my Wednesday feature, but every now and then I find one who just shines, who stands out like the North Star in the night sky. Betty Chinn was one such.

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  3. Betty could easily be awarded the “MOST AMAZING WOMAN IN THE WORLD” award, and if there isn’t one there should be. She proves once again that it is the people who know hardship who are the best at fighting it. The hungry feed others. The poor give a higher percentange of their money. Betty is giving her life. What more can one person do?

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    • You are right … this is why few politicians can relate to the needs of the poor, for they have never had to miss a single meal, or wonder how they would pay the rent next month. Betty is a gem … I cannot believe how much energy and compassion she has!

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          • Yes. I truly wish we did not have to Imagine, that the things John sang about had come true. But too many people in this world don’t want them to happen. They are the Me First people, who think they are too good to share with the rest. In the States, I think you call them republicans…

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            • You are right, and it has always been so and … sigh … I suspect always will. We always think that the next generation will do it better, but they manage to mess it up, too. It is telling that we have to make laws just to keep people from killing each other, to make people do he right thing … and still they kill and steal and are greedy & malicious. Sorry — I’m just rather down on the human race today, wondering why it even exists.

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              • I think that is the problem… It exists. It doesn’t live, it doesn’t enjoy, it doesn’t have compassion, it doesn’t love, it just exists… Down on the human race, we are most days, except Good People days, those make the rest worthwhile!

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                • I would agree in some cases, but not all, for there are people of great passion who are living, loving and trying to make the world better. The big question is … what makes the difference between that sort of person and the other? Genetics? Environment? Ah well … far better minds than mine have been trying to figure that one out for ages. Yeah, ‘good people’ days are my ‘reset’ button!

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                  • What makes the difference is the level of connection to life, and to living. Not all beings are evolving at the same pace, and it is the majority that is still lagging behind. But even in our lifetime, Jill, yours and mine, I have witnessed the forward movement of people becoming more understanding, more peaceful. The problem is that the more people who are advancing, the more it shows up the difference of those who are not. They want the old ways, change is scary. They are hanging on with all their might. But try as they will, they will lose the fight. It is just a matter of time…

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                    • You make a very astute observation here, and I think perhaps the phrase “change is scary” says so much. ‘Tis why it took a war to end slavery in this nation … people cling to the familiar. Sigh.

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  4. Dear Jill,

    Thanks for sharing this amazing story.

    I was ready with my kleenex. She is the antidote to all the selfishness we see from leaders running our country. It’s amazing how much Betty Chin was able to accomplish. I love what she did with those old Connex shipping containers.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • We all need an occasional reminder, I think, that there ARE good people out there, people who care about others and are working to make the world a little bit better place. I write about such people each Wednesday … I hope you’ll check back in!

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