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Federal Way Mirror's Citizen of the Month: Jerry Korum
Federal Way resident Jerry Korum is one of the most selfless people Patrick Godfrey knows.
When Korum isn’t helping out with the Puyallup Fair, giving endowments to children with learning disabilities through his Korum for Kids Foundation, or working at his business Korum Auto Dealership, he’s helping teach a class at Pierce College, working with the Federal Way school system or being a force in his wife of 46 years recovery as she battles stage four lung cancer.
“Jerry does many personal things that indicate the size of his heart,” Godfrey said, who nominated Korum for the Mirror’s May Citizen of the Month. “When Great American RV collapsed a few years ago from our economic downturn, Jerry was right there asking their president to come to work for him.”
Korum and his family have lived in Federal Way since 1971. Before that, the Washington native lived in Great Falls, Mont. working at a flour mill. But he soon returned to start selling cars in 1963 with his father, who was a Dodge dealer in Puyallup. Five years later, Korum found himself 25 years old and the youngest Ford dealer in the United States.
“I had the opportunity to buy in at 10 percent for a five-year buyout,” Korum said. “… I’ve been a Ford dealer now for 46 years and, as far as a career, that’s just been the love of my life.”
Korum said the success of his business, which is based in Puyallup but serves many residents from all over the south end, has allowed him to channel profits toward something worthwhile — the Korum for Kids Foundation.
Korum and his wife founded the nonprofit in 1994 and give a substantial amount of funds through endowments and scholarships to families each year from the company’s proceeds as well as their Northwest real estate holdings.
“It all started because of my daughter Sonja, she had learning disabilities,” he said. “She had dyslexia and spatial difficulties growing up so she had a very difficult time learning in school.”
Korum and his wife Germaine have also used their foundation to give scholarships through the Washington State Fair Foundation. While on the board for 10 years, Korum has been president but currently acts as the chairman of the land and acquisition and the sponsorship committees.
“It’s one of the finest organizations that Washington offers as far as bringing our youth through,” Korum said. “We have a traveling farm [that we] bring to kids all through the state of Washington. It shows them how radishes and beets and corn come out of the garden and explains what a garden is and so forth.
“Most of these kids, you ask them where corn come from or potatoes and they say ‘Safeway,” he said.
Korum’s philanthropy isn’t just limited to Washington.
Godfrey said Korum honors veterans by building a special custom Ford Mustang that tours the country, acknowledging vets for their service to America.
“I think any time there’s a good business, it’s expected that good things will come out of that business besides good profits for people to go spend on whatever, the airplanes or the boats,” Korum said. “People ask me all the time, why not go down to Scottsdale? Well, I want to be involved over here.”
Although his business primarily serves the communities in Puyallup and Tacoma, Korum is looking to make some significant contributions to the city of Federal Way.
“Because of our 43 years of living here, we’re trying to make that much more of a focus for Federal Way, plus we like to think we are the Ford dealer for Federal Way,” he said. “We want to be good to Federal Way in a really substantial way in the future.”
So far, the Korums have funded a Christmas program for the needy through Grace Church and have committed again this year, they’ve sponsored the Advancing Leadership Youth program with the Federal Way Greater Chamber of Commerce, they’ve donated toward high school programs that promote health and safety, and toward FUSION, a Federal Way organization that helps the homeless with housing assistance.
For more information on the Korum for Kids Foundation, visit www.korumhyundai.com/Korum_for_Kids_Foundation.
The Mirror's Citizen of the Month is sponsored by Jimmy Macs Roadhouse. To nominate a Federal Way resident for Citizen of the Month, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the person's full name, contact information and why you think that person should be nominated.