By Andrew Kim
Northwest Asian Weekly
Nearly three decades ago, Chong Dameron was a busy lady working at North Pacific Bank (now Heritage Bank) in Tacoma. In addition to working at the bank, she was raising two daughters and running her own separate property management business. While working at the bank, she couldn’t help but notice the plight of her older Asian customers who were struggling to acclimate themselves as recent immigrants. Troubled by what she saw, she decided to take matters into her own hands and despite her busy schedule, took on even more responsibilities by volunteering her time with the Korean Women’s Association (KWA), a nonprofit organization. She didn’t know it back then, but over the course of 30 years, she would eventually become a director at KWA and make an incredible impact on her community.
The Korean Women’s Association was initially established in 1972 to provide services to Korean wives of American servicemen. Over the years, KWA’s programs have grown to serve people of many different cultures and nationalities but the organization remains focused on providing multi-cultural, multi-lingual services to people in need. KWA now serves over 150,000 people a year in Washington State, employing over 1,000 employees who speak more than 27 different languages.
KWA services range from meal sites and day care for seniors, to citizenship and immigration services and basic food education and outreach.
Back when Chong began volunteering with KWA, she began by contributing in any way possible.
She says, “You name it, I did it. At the time, I helped translate, took the elderly to the DMV and the doctor’s office, basically anything and everything that needed to be done.” Over time, her responsibilities grew and she became involved in a $7.5 million dollar senior living apartment building project called International Place in Tacoma. International Place was built to provide comfortable, safe, and convenient low-income senior housing. After the successful completion of this development, she became project chair for another senior housing project in Federal Way called Senior City Apartments. At the time, she was taking care of her grandchildren in Las Vegas but because a director quit halfway through the project, Chong flew up to Washington every Wednesday for four months and shouldered the additional responsibilities. Although this was difficult to manage, her efforts were rewarded as Senior City earned national awards as one of the nation’s best senior housing developments. The apartments were built with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind, and provides over 3,000 square feet of commercial space for the KWA Community Center.
Chong says that she “often goes and looks around because of how nice it looks from inside and out.
Maybe one day I can retire and live someplace like this”. After this project, Chong has now taken a step back and is less active in KWA, preferring to provide support to her younger colleagues.
However, Chong remains active with the National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC), where she is the Vice President of the Seattle Chapter. NUAC is a constitutional institution focused on the reunification of the Korean peninsula, an issue that is particularly close to Chong’s heart and one that she is passionate about. Chong continues to demonstrate that she is a strong leader who has made an incredible impact on the Asian community in Washington because she chose to follow her heart and do whatever it takes to help those in need. Because of her dedication and hard work, she’s made a difference in individual lives and demonstrated that no matter how busy you are, you still have time to make a difference. On December 4, Chong will be recognized for her lifetime achievements at Northwest Asian Weekly’s event, “Top Contributors to the Asian Community”. (end)
Andrew Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.