HER Eats

Cook­ing for a cause

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tog­ra­phy by Grace Brown

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.

re­becca Kim

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