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Faithful Giver Receives Accolades for Years of Serving the Homeless

Charity: Well-wishers honor Gloria Kim for feeding and clothing the needy around L.A.


Calling her an angel, a friend, a servant of God, nearly 50 well-wishers gathered Saturday in Koreatown to honor 61-year-old Gloria Kim, a petite minister who serves up hot meals to dozens of homeless people daily.

For 16 years, Kim has awakened at 2 a.m. each day to pray, cook and make her rounds across the city, feeding the homeless. Her service drew praise from those who attended the anniversary celebration of Kim's nonprofit Zion Gospel Missionary Church at 3113 W. Venice Blvd.

Several homeless people, a gospel singing group from South Central Los Angeles, a Korean businessman and a handful of local volunteers and philanthropists expressed their gratitude.

"She comes and finds me wherever I am," said Tanya Holland, 50, a homeless woman who has known Kim since 1985. "She wakes up every day, whether she is tired or sick. I think she gets her energy from us. I just pray there are more people like her."

In 1998, Kim used her personal savings and donations to buy the two-room church building, which houses the mission, her soup kitchen and a shower facility for the homeless.

After a two-hour prayer service Saturday, five singers and four musicians called the Mighty, Mighty Travelers performed in front of the church. Homeless people took turns showering in the back bathroom and were given socks, towels and clothes. Others picked through piles of blouses, sneakers, sweaters and purses. They also received fruit, bagels and cups of homemade soup.

Kim, who turned her life over to religion 20 years ago, immigrated from South Korea in 1976 and first worked as a nurse in Florida. In 1984, she moved with her mother, Mok Lim Kim, to Los Angeles, and the two began their mission for the homeless out of a Koreatown garage they rented and lived in. Her mother died in 1990, but Kim continued the work, relying on donations and volunteers.

"I believe in her 100%," said pastor Billy Watkins of the Freedom of Spirit Church in South Central Los Angeles. "She's faithful to every alley, every curb, every street. We love her."

Watkins said he met Kim 20 years ago at his congregation. There were times, Watkins remembered, when Kim carried her mother into his church on her back because the elderly woman was too fragile and ill to walk on her own.

Kim has long been a familiar face to the homeless in MacArthur Park, Lafayette Park, Koreatown, Griffith Park and downtown Los Angeles. After an article about her mission appeared in The Times in January, donations poured in from across the state.

Since then, she has collected several thousand dollars, along with food, clothing and supplies. A handful of volunteers now regularly works at the mission. She saved enough money to buy a used Toyota pickup truck, with the mission's logo printed on its side and a white Toyota van. Both vehicles are used to deliver food and clothes to the homeless. Before, she delivered the goods in a beaten-up blue Dodge van.

"It's a miracle from God," Kim told the crowd Saturday. "Every day, I receive so many blessings."

Kelly Erwin, 42, a Studio City resident who works in a recording studio in Hollywood, said she regularly sends money or clothes.

"I like Gloria's operation because it is hands on," she said. "I know if I send money, it's going to go straight back to the streets. She touched me because it is not corporate, it is grass roots."

Won Ung Cho traveled from South Korea last week to attend the event.

He has known Kim for 25 years and said that, even back in South Korea, she had helped those less fortunate by providing them with food and clothes.

"She loves the poor, the needy, the homeless," he said. "From early morning to the night she helps, without care for herself."

After the celebration, at 3 p.m., Kim gathered several bowls of vegetables and fruit, bags of bread and a crock pot full of hot soup, and once again set off on her route.

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