Picture a multi-state flash mob that, instead of having participants learn fun dance steps to a song, gets people from across the country to engage in simultaneous volunteerism. That’s the vision of organizers behind the first-ever Korean American Service Day, set for this Saturday, Nov. 8, when participants in several pilot cities across the nation will take time out of their weekend to plant trees in a neighborhood, help out at their local food bank, or wrap presents for a holiday party for foster children.
“We want to create an annual occasion for Korean Americans and their friends, families and networks to volunteer in their local communities,” says Ellen Kim, one of the lead organizers of the volunteer-corralling event. “This Saturday is just the beginning. We’re excited to see this grow and for KA Service Day to have a life of its own in the coming years. We genuinely believe this can become an initiative with thousands of volunteers within just the next couple of years.”
The long-term goal is to make this the largest service day by an Asian American group, Kim says.
The pilot cities include Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Philadelphia, where participants will be volunteering for various projects benefiting more than 20 nonprofit organizations. Kim says that more than 235 people have already registered to participate.
The service day is the brainchild of NetKal, or Network of Korean American Leaders, a program organized by the Center for Asian-Pacific Leadership at the University of Southern California. NetKal is also responsible for the landmark Korean American Foster Family Initiative, an effort to get Korean American families to become foster parents in Los Angeles County.
Organizers of Korean American Service Day say anyone, not just Korean Americans, is welcome to come and volunteer for beneficiary groups, which also include non-Korean organizations.