Welsh Traditions

Amy’s Story

I come from a long line of Germans. Most of my family arrived in the United States in the 1850’s and settled in Northwestern Ohio. They were all farmers – clearing land, building homes, and growing crops for large families. However, I would like to share a story about the other part of my history.  On my mother’s side, I am Welsh. My grandmother was a great singer, and both of her brothers had wonderful voices too. When I was younger, she told me that was their Welsh upbringing. Music and singing are historically very tied to Welsh history, and when she and her brothers got together they always sat around her piano and sang hymns and songs from the “olden days”.

Her grandfather came from Wales in the 1880’s with 5 brothers. They settled in Eastern Ohio and became coal miners, the same job that they probably had in Wales. They all, but one, had large families, and my grandmother remembers large Davis Family reunions with singing and loud, boisterous laughing. In my 20’s, I was able to travel to Wales and see the beautiful country that my ancestors had left behind for better lives for themselves and future generations. The language was strange to me, but the people were friendly and, true to form, there were music festivals at every turn.

My late grandmother cherished her piano and hoped that I would learn to play and enjoy it as much as she. I tried as a youth, but I wasn’t very committed to the idea of practice. Today, however, I am the proud owner of her beautiful piano, and plan on taking up lessons again to carry the tradition forward.

This family photo is of my great-great grandfather Thomas Davis who came with his 5 brothers from Rhymney, Wales – he is the one with the bushy moustache.  My great-grandfather Griffith is the little boy in front of Thomas. 

Amy is a staff member at Tacoma Community House.

Sarah’s Story

Meet Sarah

What is your ethnicity?

Mostly German with a dash of Irish and Swedish.

Why did you family come to the US?

For economic opportunity in the early 1800s.

Do you have a favorite family tradition?

Gathering to burn prairie pasture or cut down dead trees for firewood.

Sarah is staff member at Tacoma Community House.

Read2Me Summer Boost

We are excited to announce we are partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of the South Puget Sound this summer. We are taking our Read2Me program to the Boys and Girls Club at the Topping Regional HOPE Center. This program will run for five weeks during the summer beginning on June 30th and ending on July 31st.

The Read2Me Summer Boost program will help students retain what they learned during the school year. Students will return the following school year being proficient readers and ready to learn. It is expected that roughly 300 students are attending the Boys and Girls Club Summer Boost program. However, we can only enroll as many students as we have tutors for. The Read2Me curriculum will stay the same, but the focus will be on 3rd grade students.

We are in need of volunteers for this new program. If you are interested in signing-up, please e-mail Karen Thomas or call 253-383-3951. The schedule for volunteers is similar to the school year. We ask volunteers to sign-up for one session, one time a week, although we encourage you to sign up for more if you are able!

Liz’s Family Heritage

Liz’ Story

I am half Japanese and the other half is French Canadian/Irish/German. My mom is Japanese and emigrated to the US in 1949. She always taught us about our Japanese heritage and culture. We would often wear kimonos, and almost always wore them when we were visiting our grandmother (Oba-chan), who only wore kimonos. (In the photo above, I’m the tall one, with my brothers Stephen and Richard and my sister Carol and my cousin Frances.) One year we all wore kimonos for our Christmas card picture, including my father who was 6’2”! My mom also taught us basic Japanese phrases and even how to write some characters, although we weren’t very good students. I am very grateful that my mother taught us to be proud of our Japanese heritage, especially when it wasn’t very popular at the time.

My dad made us a Japanese-style table so we could sit on the floor for Japanese dinners. Mom made sukiyaki, a very traditional Japanese meal but one that Americans could eat-beef, noodles, vegetables and tofu-all cooked at the table in an electric skillet. We had sukiyaki parties for our birthday parties, family gatherings and neighborhood dinners, and mom always cooked and served in a kimono, on the floor- which I always found very impressive! She taught me how to make sukiyaki and now I make it for the family gatherings. Food is a great way to bring people together and introduce other cultures.

Liz is the Executive Director of Tacoma Community House.

Sophea Mao’s Story

Sophea's Family in Battambang at a Banana Farm.
Sophea’s Family in Battambang at a Banana Farm.

Meet Sophea

Where were you born?

I was born in Cambodia.

Who did you come with to the U.S.?

I came here with my husband. My family is still in Cambodia.

Do you have a favorite family holiday?

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. All of my husband’s family get together and we eat!

Photographed above is Sophea and a relative at Angkor Wat. Sophea is enrolled in ESL classes at Tacoma Community House. 

Photographed above from left to right Giselle, Jessica, and Melissa)

Swedish + Honduran = Melissa

Melissa’s Story

I’m proud of my family’s heritage. When you come to my family’s house you’re greeted by a “Välkommen” sign and the smell of Hispanic food wafting from the kitchen. I am Swedish and Honduran!

There is a tradition in my family that every Christmas we make homemade Honduran tamales. My sisters and I (photographed above from left to right Giselle, Jessica, and Melissa) help prep the ingredients and my mom works on the masa. Family friends come over to help make this dish and it turns into a cooking party. This dish is the star of the table on Christmas.


  • Masa – mixed with spices and broth
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Raisins
  • Pork

The capers, olives, raisins, and pork are placed in the center of the masa. We wrap them in corn husks and warp them again with foil to seal them (If banana leaves are available, use those to add more flavor and you can skip using the foil). The tamales are placed in a pot and we steam them for a couple of hours. Before serving remove the foil and you can leave the corn husks for presentation.

Buen provecho!

Melissa is a staff member at Tacoma Community House. 

Meet Corey

Former education participant, Corey, returned to Tacoma Community House recently to show his gratitude to the community that encouraged him to take and pass the GED® tests. Corey explained that he dropped out of high school in D.C. during his junior year. He fell behind in his studies and eventually slipped so low that he gave up. Corey spent some years in the state of Washington as an adolescent, so when he moved back, he began taking Adult Basic Education classes at TCH in September 2012. It was “redo part two” for Corey. He decided to come to TCH because his father had taken classes here as well.

Corey credits his teacher at TCH, saying, “I only had one class and that was for science, math, reading. I only had one teacher, and she was definitely great! I was only in the course for maybe two or three weeks. I was scoring high on the pre-test she gave me,
so she told me to go take the GED® tests. She told me, ‘just go.’ I went and I passed the first time!”

Corey is currently attending Tacoma Community College and focusing on Communications and Broadcasting. “I want to one day be a news broadcaster. No, not for sports. I would hope to be an anchor.” He shared that he aspires to do meaningful work like Oprah Winfrey.

He encourages others to further their education and pursue their dreams. “For anyone that still has time to get your education from elementary, middle, and high school I strongly recommend you to do all of that while you can. That’s something that I wish I would’ve known before.”

GED® classes are held Monday through Thursday and serve students in Washington state. The Adult Basic Education (ABE) program helps students with basic skills as well as GED® level work. 

Interested in supporting individuals like Corey, make a contribution today.

Students Get a Reading Start with Read2Me

Tacoma Community House continues its efforts to improve reading fluency in the Tacoma Public School District through its program Read2Me. Since last fall, 162 tutors were recruited to work with developing young readers. Read2Me volunteers tutor developing young readers in the first, second, and third grades to ensure that children achieve 4th grade reading benchmarks. Once they enter the fourth grade, the curriculum shifts so students must rely on their own reading skills to keep up on all subjects. Thus far, volunteers have tutored 293 students for a total of 2,608 hours.

The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution awarded TCH’s Read2Me program $4,625 to help support the Tacoma School District, one of the largest education systems in Washington.  Funding for this project was made possible through the sponsorship of Mary Ball Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, located in Tacoma, WA.

“A child’s reading skills are important to their success in school and work. If students are unable to read to learn by the fourth grade, they may never catch up in their studies. Through Read2Me we will cultivate a future generation that is highly literate, knowledgeable, and skilled,” said Executive Director, Liz Dunbar. Funding provided by the DAR has helped in the recruitment of new tutors, student assessments, and volunteer trainings.

The DAR grants program was started in 2010. Funding is awarded to support projects in local communities which promote the organization’s mission areas of historic preservation, education and patriotism.

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 to promote patriotism, preserve American history, and support better education for our nation’s children. Its members are descended from the patriots who won American independence during the Revolutionary War. With 178,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide, DAR is one of the world’s largest and most active service organizations. To learn more about the work of today’s DAR, visit www.DAR.org. For more about applying for a Special Projects Grant from DAR, visit www.dar.org/grants.

Exciting News and New Video!

On Friday, April 10, 2015, Tacoma Community House celebrated 105 years of making positive change in the lives of refugees, immigrants, and low income families in the south Puget Sound. With well over 500 people in attendance at our annual luncheon, it was an amazing success! Dedicated community members took time to share lunch with us and learn about lives being transformed through TCH’s four core programs of education, employment, immigration, and advocacy.

The support of devoted community members helped raise over $56,000 during the lunch, and our luncheon sponsors contributed an additional $20,000, bringing our grand total to $76,000! Gifts made during the luncheon will ensure that Tacoma Community House’s life changing programs will continue to have a positive impact upon the 3,600 individuals and family members each year.

Special thanks to: Tacoma’s Mayor, Marilyn Strickland; KING 5 News Anchor, Lori Matsukawa; program participant, Reysis Alonso; and long-time Read2Me volunteer, Peter Darling.

If you were unable to attend the luncheon and would like to support our work, click here.

Watch our New Video, “Building Community!”

Finally Belonging, by TCH Client Reysis Alonso

On Friday, April 10, 2015, Tacoma Community House (TCH) celebrated 105 years of making positive change in the lives of refugees, immigrants and low income families in the south Puget Sound. Over 500 guests gathered at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, and were reminded, through storytelling and statistics of TCH’s reach and impact, of why it takes all of us doing what we can to ensure that all people have access to opportunities that will help them reach their fullest potential. That we are in this together, that one person’s success is the success of all, was the message at the heart of TCH participant Reysis Alonso’s speech which she shared at the Annual Luncheon. If you were not able to be there or need to be reminded of how powerful her words were, we invite you to read her story.           

Buenas Tardes. Good afternoon. My name is Reysis Alonso, and I would like to say thank you for being here today. I am Cuban. When I was 13 years old my family and I moved to Venezuela in search for freedom and a better life. The 21 years I spent in Venezuela was hard and it became harder when the government turned communist. There were no opportunities and I was barely surviving with my daughter.

My dream was to always move to the United States and in 2004 my dream came true. I was happy because of the hope that was here for me and many other immigrants looking for liberty like myself.

I am a proud Army wife. For 7 years I have moved with the Army to several cities and I have never known a place like Tacoma Community House. I reached Washington on August 18, 2014. I was looking for a place to study English. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website recommended TCH as one of the best places to study English. Caring for a family of 5 is not easy on our budget, but I knew I could study English at TCH because it is not expensive.  For the last 6 months, I have been taking ESL classes and to my surprise TCH does more than teach English. They help people find jobs, they help with immigration and because of TCH, I am on the pathway to citizenship. I also got a job with Home Depot.

Because of your support, I feel better speaking English. I can communicate better with my kids and I feel more secure with myself. Because of your support, I have a job and I finally feel like I have gained independence. I will soon become a citizen of my country, the United States. At Tacoma Community House, I had the chance to go to Olympia and ask lawmakers to keep our programs. I got to motivate my immigrant friends to keep up the good work.  I will soon be able to vote. My voice will matter and I will finally belong.

There is no place like Tacoma Community House. This place has been the solution for my life. My story is unique, but so are the stories of the thousands of people TCH serves. This is about all of us. Please continue to support this beautiful and important work of Tacoma Community House.  Thank you for everything! Gracias por todo!

Interested in helping families like Reysis’? Support our work by making a contribution today.