Faye Chin


Faye Chin

For many, retirement is the opportunity to take life at a slower, more relaxed pace. Time is spent in activities that are pleasurable or leisurely, and many finally have the resources to enjoy themselves. But, “retirement” for Faye Chin has meant continuing to work just as hard taking care of those around her.

Chin is the recipient of Houston Woman Magazine’s 2012 Community Angel Award. She received the award at the Sixth Annual Nominate HER Awards Luncheon, held May 23 at La Colombe d’Or Mansion. Chin was nominated for recognition by Mandy Kao, a friend she met while volunteering. Houston Woman Magazine’s annual awards program honors excellent role models in seven categories. Each year, the Community Angel Award is presented to a woman who has provided help to others in the community and left her mark on those she has assisted.

The majority of Chin’s career experience was in the hospitality industry. She worked in catering management at several major hotels in California and Houston. She retired from hotel management in 2001. Three years later, she went to work at the Asian Houston Chamber of Commerce, first as a part-time volunteer, then full-time as the chamber’s project coordinator. She served in this role until 2011. It was after she retired from her “real career” that Chin became more involved in volunteering.

“My son had gone away to school,” Chin said, “and volunteering was a good way for me to stay busy and not suffer from empty nest syndrome.”

She began by helping with events at different organizations she belonged to, including the Asian Houston Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Community Center, the Asian American Family Services, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance and Asia Society Texas. 

“She volunteers for almost all the Asian non-profits I can think of,” said Kao. “Before I actually started all the volunteer work, I was a member of the Herb Society,” said Chin, “and I put together three cookbooks for the organization — because I’m not a gardener. We put together three cookbooks in the 20 years I belonged to that organization.” 

Chin’s experience in the hospitality industry has carried over into her volunteer work. Her strong suit, she said, is logistics.

“Whenever a project is decided on, I usually follow up, do most of the logistics and make sure it gets completed,” she said. 

This can include many things — from finding a location for the event, working with a caterer, selecting decorations or finding booth vendors. Most recently, Chin worked on the Asian American Heritage Association’s gala and, at press time, she was preparing for the group’s June festival.

Much of Chin’s selflessness was learned from her parents. When her father first moved to Houston, there weren’t more than 25 or 30 Chinese families in town. He took it upon himself to be an ambassador of sorts and welcome new families into the community. Many of them star- ted businesses, and her father would help them find a location or introduce them to wholesalers he had been successful with. Chin remembers him receiving a telephone call in the middle of the night to take an expectant mother to the hospital. She was about to deliver her 12th child, but none of the others were old enough to drive, and the family was without a vehicle. Chin’s family was closest, and her father was willing. She remembers him driving more than one expectant mother to the hospital. 

“[My parents] were always there for others, and people could count on them to help out or just provide advice,” she said. Of her own passion for helping others, she said, “I guess it’s just sort of innate.”

Chin began helping in her family’s restaurant at age 11, waiting tables. Chin always had a part-time job while she was in school, either hosting at restaurants or cashiering in grocery stores. 

“I am sure that serving customers at such an early age was the reason I gravitated into the hospitality business. All my jobs have been service and people oriented,” Chin said.

“My parents were great role models. They were both very people-friendly, and they knew the importance of hard work,” she said. “They got me into the habit of working and taking responsibility at my jobs.”

Chin’s been helpful in her personal relationships also, often offering her services as an event planner or wedding coordinator at no cost to her friends. 

“She never says, ‘no’,” said Donna Cole of Cole Chemical, corporate sponsor of the 2012 Community Angel Award. “Faye is quite incredible in terms of volunteering her time and expertise.” 

Chin was so incredible Kao suggested, after Chin helped with her children’s birthday parties, she put her skills to profitable use. With that encouragement, Chin, now 77, recently launched Fantastic Celebrations, an event-planning business.For Chin, being found giving and reliable by those around her is most important, much more important than being paid for her services. 

“There are other ways to get paid,” said Chin. “You don’t always have to receive money.”

Kim James is a free-lance journalist and staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.

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