Partnering to Honor Community History: Gregory M. Tanbara, GTCF Board Alumnus
Over the past 38 years, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation has seen Pierce County grow and change, but what has remained constant is the passion people bring to building a thriving community. Sharing community knowledge and stories about our lived experiences builds everyone’s ability to make a positive impact.
In our latest annual book of Pierce County Partners, we share stories and insights from individuals and organizations who are making a difference in Pierce County. In their own words, they speak about the dreams and lessons that fuel their work in the community.
My parents moved to Tacoma in 1955, after my father finished his residency, to open a private medical practice in Tacoma. My folks didn’t have a lot of money after medical school, but my grandmother owned the old Japanese Language School, so we lived in the teacher’s quarters for a time.”
“I can remember my dad working long hours at his practice only to go out again in the evening to work at the clinic or do some other kind of volunteering. Sometimes he would take me with him. He taught me about service to others.
Greg’s father, the late Dr. George Tanbara, soon built a home on Yakima Avenue that he and Kimi, Greg’s mother, would live in for over 60 years. “As it turns out, my family and I moved back into the neighborhood ten years ago just six blocks from the house I grew up in. I think I drove everyone crazy with all my stories and memories of the neighborhood. I’ve lived my whole life here. It has been a very rooted existence in a place that I love.”
Working with another Tacoma community legend, Jim Walton, Dr. Tanbara treated patients in a makeshift clinic in Salishan. In 2009, Community Health Care constructed a new health care center that serves Tacoma’s Eastside neighborhood and beyond. The Kimi and George Tanbara, MD Health Center is named after Greg’s parents.
“Different people have different things to contribute; an idea, a connection, time, or money”
“I can remember my dad working long hours at his practice only to go out again in the evening to work at the clinic or do some other kind of volunteering. Sometimes he would take me with him. He taught me about service to others. I saw him building relationships with people he liked and together they would see an opportunity to do something good for the community and then they’d just go do it.”
Greg was a GTCF board member in the early nineties and currently serves on the GTCF Board Alumni Committee. “The Alumni Board allows me to spend time with people I like and respect, and together we draw on our collective memory of working together to get things done.”
“That’s what we did, with GTCF’s help, we gathered a group of people who saw an opportunity to honor an important part of our history and together we got it done.”
“I’ve realized that working with GTCF wasn’t really about the awkward business of asking people for money. Different people have different things to contribute; an idea, a connection, time, or money. What GTCF does is bring together people with something to give and a common passion and create these kinds of valuable opportunities for people in our community.”
Greg’s first childhood home in Tacoma, the Japanese Language School, is now memorialized on the University of Washington Tacoma campus, in great part because of GTCF’s catalyzing efforts. “That’s what we did, with GTCF’s help, we gathered a group of people who saw an opportunity to honor an important part of our history and together we got it done.”