The International District Emergency Center continues Donnie Chin’s commitment to safety

By Stacy Nguyen, journalist, designer, and community member

For over half a century, the International District Emergency Center (IDEC), based in the Chinatown International District (CID), has been serving as a community-centered alternative to policing. It was founded by Donnie Chin in 1968. Donnie was a hero in the CID, one who led IDEC with care and devotion. He kept his community safe, up until his tragic murder in 2015. He continues to be mourned and missed by the community.

His legacy and impact live on though, and they continue to serve as inspirations to other groups who have self-organized into community watches in the CID. Today, IDEC is volunteer-run, and its mission is to preserve and enhance community development in the CID so that it can be a viable and safe place to live, work, visit, and conduct business. IDEC’s vision for the CID is one of a community that thrives. 

When it comes to public safety, its most well-known service offering is first aid stations, staffed by five to seven people, at the many community events throughout the year — events such as the 2021 Anti-Asian Hate Rally, the Celebrate Little Saigon event, and the CID Night Market.

“A child choked on a piece of grilled onigiri at the Bon Odori,” said Meagan Wong, an IDEC volunteer, sharing moments when IDEC’s presence proved pivotal. “Grandma burned her arm on the wok cooking dinner. Some guy at the table next to you at dim sum collapsed and needed CPR — IDEC is right there.” Meagan has deep ties to IDEC and has been a long-time volunteer. She used to go to the IDEC every day after school because it was a safe space in a neighborhood that didn’t always feel safe.  

First aid stations are important at our community events because if an incident occurs that requires first aid, first responders will typically be five minutes away. Five minutes is an eon in emergency situations.

IDEC, however, is right there on premises ready to administer aid — and that can make all of the difference to people.  

How to connect and volunteer with IDECTo get in contact with IDEC and to get started on volunteering with them, please email IDEC board member Jamie Lee.


This blog is part of our Support Your Neighbors in the CID series, which spotlights amazing folks in the Chinatown International District, nominated by their neighbors for doing cool and impactful work around community safety.