[8/15/22] For the Korean Women's Association, the sky is the limit. They are a non-profit organization that provides services to all of Western Washington. They currently operate 15 offices in 17 counties and employ over 1,500 workers to serve more than 10,000 clients every year. And they're still growing. This year, they are celebrating 50 years of making a difference in the lives of vulnerable immigrants, families, and seniors. Before growing into the organization they are today, however, the Korean Women's Association started off as one woman's idea to bring together other women like herself and find community amongst loneliness.
In the early 1970s, Kim Nam Hui was living in Pierce County as a Korean immigrant wife of a U.S. serviceman. Living in an area without a strongly-established Korean cultural presence yet, Kim began hosting gatherings of other Korean wives to share food, stories, and support.
Though its beginnings were humble, the Korean Women Association's (KWA) ambitions were not. The group of women soon began providing support services within their community. These included domestic violence counseling, immigration services, and transportation and translation assistance.
KWA began its fundraising efforts by selling food to area residents and soliciting donations from local businesses. Soon, however, the group realized that to fully achieve their goals, they would need to do more. In 1979, KWA officially became a non-profit organization. That same year, they received their first grant from the State of Washington.
As the organization grew, so did the variety of needs of its clients.
Now, KWA offers everything from in-home care to affordable housing; meal assistance to health screenings.
KWA provides services to more than 10,000 clients every year. While the organization began as a space for Korean women immigrants, they now serve a diverse group of individuals in need of assistance. KWA's mission is to "provide multi-cultural, multi-lingual human services, regardless of race or ethnic background, to diverse communities through education, socialization, advocacy, and support."
These days, one of their biggest areas of support is for seniors. KWA's in-home care program exists to give seniors, as well as individuals with disabilities, the option to age in place and remain independent. In order to accomplish this, KWA employs thousands of professional caregivers to help tend to individuals' needs in daily life. Not only does this improve the lives of the many people it serves, it creates jobs and opportunities that benefit Western Washington communities and the local economy.
KWA's domestic violence programs, one of the critical services they have offered from the beginning, are still going strong today and changing lives for countless individuals and families in our community. They operate a 24-hour crisis hotline, intervention and planning assistance, rapid rehousing for survivors, and so much more. In addition to helping intervene in crises, KWA also offers prevention programs including small group workshops and community education presentations.
Another big part of KWA's focus is its affordable housing options in communities throughout Western Washington. They currently offer five affordable housing properties in total: three senior housing options and two low-income housing options. These options are life-changing opportunities for community members in need of safe, affordable places to live. KWA's mission to provide affordable housing in the area continues to grow. Just this past May, they received $36 million in funding to develop more housing in downtown Tacoma.
As members of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, KWA is also closely connected with the local business community. They have played an important role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic helping small businesses survive and prosper. They were selected by Pierce County Economic Development Services to provide small business navigation services for limited English proficiency Asian American business owners. They have been partners in the ambitious Pierce County Business Accelerator, a program of the Pierce County Economic Development Department administered by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. KWA worked with these partners to facilitate cohort 3 of the Pierce County Business Accelerator, which was composed entirely of Asian-American small business owners. This cohort graduated the program in February 2022 and have gone on to do great things in our business community.
KWA was awarded the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber's Spotlight On Business Award this year in the non-profit category for all the incredible work they do in Pierce County and beyond.
The momentum of the Korean Women's Association is something of a marvel. Throughout fifty years of service, they have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to the most pressing needs of underserved and vulnerable groups. It is exciting to imagine, and be a part of, whatever future endeavors they bring to our community.
This Member Feature story is part of a series by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber to promote stronger connections and increased engagement between the Chamber, its members, and the local business community. Member stories are non-promotional opportunities to share members' business stories with the community. If you are a Chamber member interested in being featured for a story, please contact Digital Marketing Outreach Coordinator Audrey Widner at firstname.lastname@example.org
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