Pocket Life May 2022

By Corky Mau
May 2022

Grandmother’s Lessons

Inspired to serve, May Lee never stops
Pocket resident May O. Lee is driven to make the world a better place. Since earning a master’s in social work from Sacramento State in 1987, she works tirelessly on behalf of our immigrant and refugee communities.

The longtime activist will be recognized May 21 for her efforts. Lee will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from her alma mater. The honor is given to individuals who distinguish themselves through humanitarian and philanthropic contributions.

Lee became a social worker because of her paternal grandmother. “She understood the challenges facing immigrants and was determined to help them overcome the social and language barriers in the U.S.,” Lee says. “She was just a teenager when she left China to marry my grandfather, who was 20 years older.”

The couple opened a laundry business in New Orleans. Lee’s grandmother taught herself English and learned southern cooking, with local dishes often served alongside traditional Chinese meals.

“As more Chinese moved into the area, my grandmother offered a hand. Helping fellow immigrants attain a better quality of life became a life passion for her,” Lee says.

Lee followed her grandmother’s example. In 1975, she was the first paid staff person for the Asian Community Center. ACC Senior Services is now in its 50th year.

Lee founded Asian Resources in 1981, a nonprofit that connects immigrants to jobs and social services. She helped start Health For All, My Sister’s House and the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce.

She also tackled voter rights, which resulted in Sacramento County ballots being printed in Chinese and Spanish.

Lee has been involved with census outreach and educating people about the importance of being counted. Writing in The Sacramento Bee, she noted, “My grandma and ma said every rice grain matters, so never waste it. This same principle applies to the census: everyone matters and should be counted.”

From a young age, Lee understood the importance of education. “I was fortunate to get a good education and believe in paying it forward,” she says. “In 2015, my husband and I established the Full Circle Project Endowed Scholarship for students in the Ethnic and Asian American Studies program.”

Her days are busy, but Lee makes time to relax with friends. She indulges in two different foodie groups.

She adds, “Immigrant communities are still plagued with quality-of-life issues, so I’ll continue with my efforts. I’m humbled and proud to receive this honorary degree from Sac State.”


Robbie Waters Library has introduced the Cake Pan Library, located near the cookbooks section. Before investing money and space for cookware you might use occasionally, borrow the gear first. The loan period is three weeks, with no renewals. Patrons are limited to two cake pans per loan period.

The library’s popular “Storytime” program has resumed on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. The program is for young children, with songs, stories and other activities to encourage early literacy skills.


Classic cars and hot rods are back at Device Brewing Company. This spring and summer, the car shows will be held on the first and third Thursdays of the month from 5–8 p.m. Check out the classics in the parking lot that fronts Windbridge Drive and Rush River Drive.


City Council member Rick Jennings and Parks Commissioner Devin Lavelle are sponsoring another park cleanup. Join other volunteers Saturday, May 21, at Reichmuth Park. The event starts at 9 a.m. Tools are provided. Register at bit.ly/d7poaks22 or email Lavelle at devinlavelle@gmail.com.

Corky Mau can be reached at corky.sue50@gmail.com. Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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