Much of what Federal Way resident Grace Park does centers around helping people.
New York Life, where Park is a managing partner for the Tacoma office, provides financial services for people. As a member of Federal Way Rotary, Park is involved in various project that serve the community. As a member of the Korean Women’s Association and the current KWA board chairperson, she is part of a non-profit organization that serves approximately 10,000 clients a year in 11 different counties in Washington by providing a number of social services.
“KWA stands for helping other people,” Park said.
The Korean Women’s Association began 45 years ago by a group of Korean women married to American servicemen at Fort Lewis Army base and McChord Air Force Base. It started as a social club for them to overcome their feeling of isolation from being new to this country, and they soon began outreach services to other Koreans in need in Pierce County, according to the KWA website. Now, KWA’s mission has grown to improve the quality of life for all people in need, with a focus on non-English speaking immigrants, and serves more than 40 different nationalities.
“Our mission is to help multi-lingual, multi-cultural and under-served populations,” Park said, adding KWA tries to help new immigrants adjust to life in America and help fill gaps in services they may encounter. “We know what it’s like to immigrate to this country.”
Park, who has lived in Federal Way for the last 27 years, became a member of KWA in 2005 after starting to work for New York Life, which, she said, encourages staff to be involved and contribute in their communities.
“As a Korean woman, I thought the organization was a good fit,” Park said of joining KWA. “I found out about what they do, and I was blown away.”
KWA provides a broad range of services to many communities. They include in-home care, community and behavioral health services and referrals, affordable housing and social services, which span from immigration and naturalization assistance, senior meal sites, domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy, benefit enrollment and community education.
“I’m glad that with our outreach that our voices are heard,” Park said of immigrants.
Park said, in Federal Way, the two largest needs are low-income housing and in-home care services for the elderly.
To that end, KWA opened Senior City near the Transit Center, a 62-unit housing complex for seniors, who pay much less to live there than they would elsewhere.
“There is a list of people who want to get into this low-income housing — a mile long,” Park said.
KWA receives government funding to hire employees for its in-home care program, where employees come into homes and perform tasks the residents may have trouble doing.
Park said KWA also provides people with a number of referrals to many government or other agencies to receive services.
“A lot of people come to us first, and we direct them to other agencies,” Park said. “We do a lot of navigating. We know how to navigate this multilingual stuff better than anybody because we’ve all been there.”
Park said, except for the employees hired for various programs, everybody at KWA is a volunteer, and any profits gained from different programs are used to support its services.
“We use that money to put it back into the community where it needs it most,” she said. “We’re just people helping people in a real way.”
Park said, as a member of KWA, she feels like she is providing help where it is really needed and sees KWA expanding its services further, especially in Federal Way. Park said, of KWA’s clients, the majority live in King and Pierce counties, and she estimates approximately 30 percent of them live in the Federal Way area.
While KWA has an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims in Tacoma, she envisions having one in Federal Way, as well. She would also like KWA to strengthen relations and partnerships with more community organizations and service clubs, which is just one of the reasons why she joined the Federal Way Rotary Club.
Park said the other reason she joined is because, while KWA serves Federal Way as part of the region, she wanted to do something to directly contribute to the city.
She said she also sees herself as a liaison between the Korean and American communities and is hopefully bridging the gap between them.
“I use that kind of attitude to go out and volunteer,” Park said. “I feel like I’m so fortunate in living in this great town.”
Park said she also sees greater opportunity to help Federal Way by KWA and Rotary working together.
“I’m really promoting that idea,” she said. “So if KWA works together with Rotary, I think we can do great things. I’m going to be the bridge between the Federal Way Rotary and KWA.”
To learn more about the Korean Women’s Association, go to kwacares.org.