Hundreds of Chinese Americans with the surname Lee have descended on Chinatown in Los Angeles for the 19th national convention of the Lee Family Association.

The association, which began nearby 150 years ago in San Francisco, was one of many family and village associations that offered a haven for members in the face of widespread discrimination against the Chinese, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

However, the mostly aging attendees said groups like theirs are having a hard time drawing in younger members. They said much of the younger generation doesn't consider the associations relevant.

"It's a real problem," Cesar Lee, 70, a member of the Los Angeles chapter, told the Times. "You don't want the younger generation to lose their roots."

But the Lee Association has one tool that no rival group can match -- their own credit union.

The Lee Federal Credit Union, which is said to have $30 million in funds, offers car loans and mortgages to its members at competitive rates.

"We know each other, so people don't ever default on loans," Lee said to the newspaper. "In the old days, everything was done with just a handshake. But they've spent the last 20 years tightening the rules."