Cooking for a cause
Rebecca Kim moved her family to the United States in 1980 with a big dream to spread goodwill by helping those in need. Although life threw some unexpected challenges her way, Kim feels she has come out stronger and she now works toward making her big dream a reality.
Kim, a first-generation South Korean immigrant, moved from California in 2000 with her family and continued to work toward her American dream. She said it felt like her family needed a fresh start after losing a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
“I just remember asking God not to abandon my family. It was a very difficult time because Grace was a happy, healthy baby and the doctors could not tell us why this happened,” she said.
Kim and her family slowly integrated into the community, spending the first seven years running a local gas station before branching out and opening Grace Convenience Store, 468 West Grand Ave., in 2007.
The new title of small business owner filled most of her time. When she was not at the store, she was home taking care of her family and healing from the loss of her daughter. However, the desire to help the community never wavered.
Kim reached out to a local church, despite being Buddhist, and started to volunteer through the organization. Eventually, Kim said she felt a calling to convert to Christianity and spread the love of Jesus Christ.
“When we first moved here, my husband and I were not sure why we were here but knew there was a reason. We started Grace Convenience Store and started building a family within the community. Now, I feel that God’s true purpose for me is happening because I am helping people.”
Shortly before Hurricane Harvey, Kim was hospitalized and had to spend a week in intensive care. During her stay in the ICU of a local hospital, Kim said she felt called to find a way to serve her community.
“I got out of the hospital and I felt reborn. I knew that God wanted me to find a way to help people and share his love,” she said.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Kim saw a golden opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those affected by the massive storm. Almost immediately, Kim began devising a plan of action, calling on friends and family members for help.
Kim finally decided to host a fundraiser out of her store where she sold authentic Korean cuisine at lunch. Kim and a friend spent hours preparing enough food to make 300 plates to sell, while her friends and loyal customers spread the word around town.
“I saw Korean food as a way to reach the community. It’s something I do well and there are no places in town to get Korean home cooking,” she said.
Her cooking includes a variety of Korean dishes like Korean BBQ bulgogi, chicken fried rice and Japchae.
Her first fundraiser had an overwhelmingly positive response from the community. She ran out of food well before she anticipated and raised enough money to send supplies like water and nonperishable food items to Harvey victims. She also sent a small cash donation to a church in the area.
“There was a line of people out the door and hardly any room inside. I had people coming in at 9 a.m. looking for food,” she said.
Kim continued to perfect her method so that less money would be spent on supplies and more would be sent for relief efforts and decided to host a second fundraiser. She also participated in the Seeds of Peace festival to increase her exposure. She has since entitled her giving project as the GRACE Mission in honor of her late daughter.
Now, Kim has decided to focus her giving on the local level by helping the COMPACT Hillcrest Children’s Home.
“I had a dream about opening an orphanage where I could help children that have been abused or abandoned. Right now, I’m not at the point where I could open an orphanage but that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything.
“My children have all almost grown up, and they don’t need me like they once did. This gives me more time to follow my dream,” she said.
In addition to donating 100 percent of the proceeds from her most recent fundraiser to the children’s home, Kim gathered boxes of school supplies, coloring books and winter necessities to top off her donation.
Kim said she plans to hosts fundraisers that will support missions throughout the community, creating a reserve of funds and supplies that she will distribute when a need arises.