Koreatown volunteer group honored for 20 years of feeding homeless

November 26, 2014
 Korean Vincentians and SVDP-LA officials blow out candles on the 20th anniversary cake.

Korean Vincentians and SVDP-LA officials blow out candles on the 20th anniversary cake. (Courtesy of Kay Hwangbo / SVDP-LA)

The president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of Los Angeles (SVDP-LA), arrived at 6:00 a.m. last Saturday to honor a group of shy Korean American volunteers at the Cardinal Manning Center homeless shelter on Los Angeles’ Skid Row.

Claire Padama thanked the St. Basil Korean Conference for feeding Skid Row’s homeless every Saturday morning for the past 20 years. David Fields, executive director of SVDP-LA, presented a merit award to the group.

A Korean teenager serves homemade soup to a homeless man at the special Thanksgiving breakfast.

A Korean teenager serves homemade soup to a homeless man at the special Thanksgiving breakfast.

“Nothing like this has happened to us, in 20 years,” said Joseph Ahn, president of the Korean group, which is also part of St. Basil Catholic Church in Koreatown. Ahn accepted the award on behalf of Shiwa Kahng, who founded the Korean conference in 1994. Kahng, 81, was unable to attend the event due to illness.

When a Korean newspaper and Korean radio lauded their accomplishments last week, the volunteers were awed. For 20 years, the Korean group has worked without fanfare to feed the homeless on Skid Row.

First, they served sandwiches on the streets. Then, four years ago, the L.A. County health department cracked down on people distributing food on the streets. The Korean group sought and received permission from the Society’s Cardinal Manning Center to serve a hot breakfast inside the shelter.

Ever since, the volunteers have served breakfast every Saturday morning, 52 weeks a year, from 5:45 to 6:30 a.m. Two hundred fifty to 300 homeless people are served every week.

On Saturday, Nov. 22, about 40 volunteers served a special Thanksgiving breakfast of hot turkey and ham slices, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, fresh fruit and pumpkin pie. The breakfast was underwritten by Sureung America, an American subsidiary of a Korean company. On a normal Saturday, about 20 volunteers serve a breakfast of homemade soup, turkey hot-dogs and pastries.

“Thank you for being a part of our mission,” Padama said, addressing the Korean volunteers, “and for sharing God’s gift with our less-fortunate brothers and sisters.”

“The Korean Vincentians have made an important contribution to people’s lives,” Fields added.

Korean women serve turkey and mashed potatoes to a homeless woman.

Korean women serve turkey and mashed potatoes to a homeless woman.

Kareem Shabazz, 52, a resident and volunteer at the homeless shelter, agreed. He said that the Koreans’ breakfast service “shows us that we are worthwhile in ourselves, and that society has not forgotten about us.”

Twenty members of Bliss Music Ensemble, a Korean American youth orchestra, played music to entertain the diners, as it does every week.

The Korean volunteer group has begun a major fundraising drive for another program, the home-visit program, which provides poor people with emergency, short-term, direct grants. The conference hopes to raise $100,000 from the Korean business community.

To make a donation or for more information, contact Joseph Ahn at (213) 973-3006.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international, nonprofit, Catholic lay organization based in Paris, France. Its American headquarters is in St. Louis, MO.


This story and the photographs were provided by Kay Hwangbo, a public relations consultant to Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Los Angeles Council.

One Comment

  1. pastor Rahat John Austin

    October 21, 2015 at 12:51 AM

    My dear in Jesus Christ,

    Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ.

    I, on behalf of our 26 Living River has attended the 26th church growth international conference from 13th to 19th october. Now it is ended.

    I was always wondered that what is the secret of development of Korea and how the church has contributed in all this progress. now I have seen, that dedication and prayer of righteous can change the nation. The churches have played a marvalouse leading role in it. Being here is the life changing experience. Here are a lot of things I have learned which now we will implement in Pakistan and I believe in God that it will reduce the suffering of Christians in pakistan. I wanted to learn more about korean churches, their structure and how it functioning, the methodologies what we can adopt in the critical environment of pakistan. Can I come, meet with you and learn a little more about your church please?

    i have seen that you are doing a great work and blessed many and shown the way of progress and prosperity to korean nation. I also want this to do in pakistan as our people are suffering with the generation to generation slavery , supresssion and prosecution. I hope I will find your answer in yes in Jesus name.

    God bless Your Church, God bless Korea.

    Another thing is we do not have any attachment with any church of the world we are independent and registered church by the government of Pakistan, we want to follow your way to lead our peoples, how can we be affiliated with you? I will bring my church profile and other registration documents if you needed.

    God bless you

    Yours in Christ,

    Pastor Rahat John Austin,

    President ,Living River Ministries Pakistan.

    phone korea: 010 43484679

    phone pakistan: 0092 333 8148907


    page: http://www.facebook.com/livingriverpakistan