Elaine Tso has been named chief executive officer of Asian Services In Action, Inc., which provides healthcare, social services and advocacy for the growing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities of Northeast Ohio.
She succeeds Michael Byun, who stepped down in 2018 after leading ASIA, Inc. for 15 years. Tso has served as Interim Co-CEO for the past six months and was recently elevated to CEO by ASIA, Inc.’s board of directors.
“Elaine is the ideal person to lead ASIA into a new chapter,” said Board President Alyssa Naragon, who has worked for many years with Tso in executive board positions. “I have witnessed firsthand her passion, dedication, and love for ASIA, its staff and the communities we serve. She’s been a stabilizing force during this transition, and now she’s ready to lead us to new growth. We also know she’ll be an advocate for new Americans, who bring so much to our communities.”
Tso, a lawyer and a resident of Broadview Heights, joined ASIA, Inc.’s board of directors over a decade ago and has served as its fundraising committee chair since 2011. She led the board as president from 2013 to 2017. Last year, she became Interim Co-CEO along with Scott Piepho during the nationwide search for Byun’s successor. On April 27, the board voted to offer her the top position.
With a staff of approximately 80 employees and a budget of more than $5.5 million, ASIA, Inc. is the largest human services agency in Ohio’s AAPI community. It provides linguistically and culturally appropriate services to immigrant and refugee communities. While ASIA, Inc. offers services to any who qualify, it specializes in meeting the language and cultural needs of those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.
Services provided by ASIA, Inc. include preschool and after-school programs, social groups for seniors, legal assistance, economic development programs and basic health and human services. The organization opened its first Federally Qualified Health Center in Cleveland in 2013 and its second site in Akron in 2016.
“I am overjoyed to be trusted with this precious responsibility,” Tso said. “There are so many examples where ASIA’s work has transformed people’s lives.”
She said she recalled a recent client, a 70-year-old man from the Mon community, who had initially gone to another agency for assistance with obtaining his legal permanent residency, or green card, and waited for years. It was only after he came to ASIA, Inc. in 2018 that he received the culturally and linguistically complete services that he needed to obtain his green card a few weeks ago.
“I am so fortunate to be associated with ASIA doing such meaningful work,” said Tso, who graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and worked briefly for an auto manufacturer before attending the University of Akron School of Law. After passing the Bar exam, she worked as a private litigation attorney and provided ASIA, Inc. with volunteer legal services. “For years,” she said, “I have felt like a member of the ASIA family.”
May Chen, who co-founded ASIA, Inc. in 1995 with three other local women and served as its first executive director, said the agency she helped to launch is in good hands. She noted Tso helped to foster ASIA, Inc.’s growth and impact and was exceptional at chairing ASIA, Inc.’s annual fundraising gala.
“She believes in ASIA’s work and her contributions these past 11 years have come from the heart,” Chen said. “How blessed ASIA is to have this extraordinary leader.”
Tso will be reintroduced to the community as CEO at ASIA, Inc.’s Annual Spring Speaker Series, 9 to 11 a.m. Friday, May 24 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron, 3300 Morewood Road, Fairlawn.
The featured speaker will be Akron Police Officer Damber Subba, the first Nepali refugee from Bhutan to join the police force. To register for the event, visit www.asiaohio.org/springseries. Alternatively, call Kimlee Sureemee at (216) 881-0330, ext. 8811.