Bulgogi to the Rescue
on September 22, 2010
Eight members of the Richmond Korean Baptist Church arrived at the corner of Macdonald and 2nd St, carrying sacks of rice, watermelons, and vegetables. Chefs from the Bay Area Rescue Mission (BARM) welcomed them and hurried to begin cooking. The menu today—and once a month every Saturday—is always the same: Bulgogi.
In 1995 the church decided to donate food to BARM, a longstanding center for low-income people. Though BARM provides the facilities, the Korean volunteers bring all of the food —enough to feed the 250 emergency shelter residents, recovery program participants and the homeless. The volunteers purchase beef, marinate it with Korean spices and prepare the food along with chefs at the mission.
They serve dinner at four specific times a day: the men at 5pm, women and mothers with children at 6pm, at 7pm the homeless, and at 8pm those who are struggling with financial difficulties. As the serving started, a diverse group of people—single mothers, the elderly, and the poor—showed up, packing into the dining room to enjoy the beef, called Bulgogi, rice and fruit salad. Many of them look forward to Korean barbecue day.
Sam Smith, who is currently in the recovery program of BARM, says, “We absolutely look forward to good food and look forward to just their whole spirit. I’ve been in the program for a while now and I was just commenting to somebody in line about how faithful they’ve been.” He has been at BARM for about a year, attending nearly every outing provided by the Korean Church.
Ki-Young Chung, who has spearheaded this program since its early stages, explains that Bulgogi, an iconic dish, was selected for its ease of preparation and widespread popularity—it is like spaghetti for Americans, suiting people’s tastes, regardless of age or gender.
Most of the congregation lives outside of Richmond, but they remain committed to the community. Each family takes a turn cleaning up Jefferson Street near the Church building. They also distribute gifts and calendar every New Year’s in neighborhoods surrounding the Church.
The Korean Baptist Church is recently planning a Bulgogi party for the Richmond police. Ki-Young Chung says, “Police in America take many risks. They often die during their missions by gunshot. It’s tragic. We want to serve a meal in order to show our gratitude to them.”
This is 13-year-old Tiffany Jeong’s second visit to the mission. She spent the day helping her father prepare and serve food to all kinds of people—including people she had been a little frightened of. She said, “ I was worried at first but I found that this mission is so fun.” The next Bulgogi dinner will be held on October 16 at Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond.
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