Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh sipped their tea.
JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFFGovernor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh sipped their tea.


Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and other elected officials joined supporters of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center on Friday for a tea ceremony to celebrate the center’s 50th anniversary.

“The support of immigrant families, especially right now in these uncertain times in our country . . . is truly so important,” Walsh said.

BCNC started 50 years ago as a summer program for 15 teenagers. Now, it has grown to support more than 8,000 people at four different locations in Boston and Quincy, executive director Giles Li said.

Such organizations often struggle to keep up momentum and stay relevant. But BCNC hasn’t struggled with that, Baker said.Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.Sign Up

Baker said the organization’s drive to “maintain your capacity to do the things you want to do on behalf of the people you serve is commendable.”

The goal of the BCNC, Li said, is to help the “most vulnerable” people in the community. They have helped adults with the challenges of not knowing English, not having a college education, and working physically demanding jobs, he said.

A server poured House Goddess Tea to guests.
JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFFA server poured House Goddess Tea to guests.

The organization’s work doesn’t stop with adults. In the past year alone, Li said, BCNC has sent all the high school seniors served by the center off to college with financial aid; 95 percent of them are the first in their families to go.

“These families have had limited opportunity, but they’re working to give their kids everything that they have never had,” Li said. “It’s these families that we stay committed to helping.”

BCNC wanted to hold a tea ceremony because of its cultural significance of bringing people together, Li said. Friday’s ceremony showed BCNC’s commitment to continue supporting the community and build “brighter futures for our families.”

Tea Master Xingcai Zhang, who led the ceremony, offered two different oolong teas from the Fujian province in China, where he is from.

The Fujian province is also where the tea for the Boston Tea Party came from.

“So now we have a chance to bring it all back, to bring it full circle,” Li said.

Zhang, who called himself Dr. Tea, performed a “My Love” tea ceremony where guests serve tea to people next to them. He pointed out that this meant Walsh, the Democratic mayor of the state’s largest city, had to serve tea to Baker, the Republican governor.

Baker smiled and gave an exaggerated thumbs-up, provoking a burst of laughs and cheers.

A number of events are planned, culminating in a gala May 30.

Tea master Xingcai Zhang poured House Goddess Tea leaves onto a bamboo holder.
JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFFTea master Xingcai Zhang poured House Goddess Tea leaves onto a bamboo holder.

Breanne Kovatch can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.