Every week outside the doors of Korean Women’s Association in Tacoma, usually before KWA is open for business, a group gathers to share and sell the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors. Often you can find lettuce, buttercup, and sesame leaves – each grown with skills passed on generation to generation. Many of the gardeners moved to the United States from Korea as young women and mothers, including Chang ye Ham. Mrs. Ham brings her homegrown seasonal vegetables regularly before she joins others who come to KWA to socialize and enjoy a traditional Korean meal, served weekly on Wednesdays at KWA’s senior meal site in Tacoma.
Often Mrs. Ham shares a meal or a celebration like Mother’s Day with her daughter, Grace Kim. Since January 2018, Grace Kim has served as Board Chair on the Korean Women’s Association Board of Trustees.
Grace’s family has decades-long ties to KWA. When Grace was just a week shy of turning 19, she and her family arrived in Tacoma. It was Grace’s aunt and mother of one of the founding members of KWA who petitioned to bring Grace’s family to the United States from Korea. Her cousin, Hong Cha White, along with a small group of determined women, started KWA in 1972. Mrs. White was honored at the 45th Anniversary Celebration in 2017 for her vision, insight, and dedication to KWA.
As Grace’s parents aged, they found a sense of home and community in the various senior services offered at KWA. Her dad favored the social aspects of his visits, “My father used to enjoy coming to the Tacoma meal site. He was an avid dancer and really enjoyed coming and the time he spent dancing after the meal on Wednesdays.”
When Grace’s father passed in 2009, her family soon realized her mother would need assistance. Grace, who was living in Arizona at the time, found comfort in knowing KWA HomeCare could provide the help her mother needed to age in place: “When my father passed away my mom fell into a serious depression. My father had been my mom’s hands and legs. My mom does not speak English or drive. She was homebound and she didn’t know what to do. She wanted to be able to stay in her home to be live somewhat independently. KWA allowed her to do that.”
The first time Grace came to visit her mother after KWA HomeCare services were in place, Grace says she saw “the enormous impact KWA services had to the community and especially to elderly and disabled.” Grace says after seeing how comfortable and happy her mother was with KWA services and learning more about the variety of programs the agency facilitated, she knew she wanted to give back.
Grace started volunteering five years ago, then joined the Board of Trustees as the first board member to be selected through a newly instituted interview process initiated after a by-law change in 2014. Grace served as Vice-Chair in 2016, Volunteer Committee Chair in 2017, and as Board Chair since 2018.
“For me to be a part of this great organization and be able to give my talent and time in a greater way with a team of other people … that is just very rewarding.” Grace has shepherded many changes in her role as KWA Board Chair. She says the most rewarding has been “to help enhance the lives of our employees by installing a better compensation system. They are the biggest asset to KWA, and they are the enablers of the service we provide to our community. When they are happy the clients we serve will be happy.”
We invite you to visit KWA’s website and spend some time exploring the many services and programs we have available. If you are looking for more information on our senior services, visit Senior Centers and Senior Wellness under Social Services.
If you are interested in joining our team, please visit KWACares.org/Get-Hired for current job openings and how to apply.