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Commerce in the Community: Korean Churches for Community Development works to strengthen local communities through organizational capacity building, leadership development and local partnerships.

Hyepin Im, Founder and President of Korean Churches for Community Development

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Hyepin Im, the Founder and President of Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), the largest Asian faith-based organization involved in church and community development initiatives in the United States.

Question 1: Tell us about Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD). What is your mission and main focus?

Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD) was founded in 2001 with the vision to serve as a light and a bridge between the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and the greater community at large. We are today a national, award-winning nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the Asian American community's participation, contribution and influence through faith-based and community partnerships. We are unique in that we are the only Asian American organization in the country working in the intersection of church and community development. We can summarize our work into three buckets - building bridges, building capacity, and building resources.

Contrary to the model minority image of AAPI communities, when you disaggregate AAPI community data, many AAPI communities are suffering at comparable or even higher levels of poverty, juvenile delinquency, sickness, low homeownership rates, high school dropout rates, low wealth and other economic indicators with other known communities of color. However, because of the model minority myth, the AAPI community is often overlooked by policy makers and funders in investment, funding and program decisions.

By building bridges between AAPI and the greater community as well as between the faith community and the greater community at large, we foster public private partnerships that increase investments and services as well as strengthen impact in the community. We also help to build the capacity of faith and nonprofit leaders and institutions to ultimately increase their impact. To date, we have trained over 3000 faith and nonprofit leaders in the areas of navigating government and corporate America, leveraging resources, building successful partnerships, advocating for and implementing programs and connecting and communicating with the greater community. Finally, we have translated our advocacy and leadership efforts to bringing and building resources for the community.

Question 2: In what ways is KCCD working to promote economic mobility and job creation?

KCCD promotes economic mobility and job creation through our various initiatives and advocacy efforts. Although many of these initiatives at first may appear unrelated to economic mobility and job creation, research shows otherwise. For example, research shows that there is a $60,000 difference in wealth between a homeowner and a renter. I am proud to say that we have done many "firsts" in the AAPI community through such initiatives as our homeownership programs where we have trained over 8000 potential buyers and assisted with over $1.4 million in down payment assistance. Our foreclosure counseling program has helped families save their home by saving over $85 million worth of mortgages from going into foreclosure and consequently stabilizing communities. Our digital literacy program has helped parents to help their kids navigate school work and go to college while also helping seniors to leverage social media and internet to get jobs and stay healthy.

Over the years, we have also trained so many youth and adults with life and professional skills to attain Over the years, we have also trained many youth and adults with the life and professional skills to attain employment and increase their economic mobility through our various initiatives. Some examples include our $5 million Youth Workforce Program grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, our Communities Empowering Youth Initiative with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, our national Americorps Vista program with 26 student slots, our employment program through Transitional Subsidized Employment Program and our recent Young Ambassadors program in partnership with Forum for Theological Education.

Other successful initiatives have included our disaster readiness seminars, small business trainings, Affordable Care Act outreach, National AAPI Healthy Marriage Initiative, our Faith and Community Collaborative on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, REO rehab projects, affordable housing, immigration reform and more.

Question 3: How is KCCD partnering with other organizations - nonprofits, businesses, etc - to strengthen the community?

As a founder of this organization, I witnessed the power and benefit of leveraging partnerships and have modeled what I have learned from First AME. First AME is a large, prominent African American church in Los Angeles which has partnered with the greater community and consequently was able to leverage an additional $12 million of resources beyond their $3 million offering to help the community. This church was feeding over 600 families by providing them two weeks of grocery supplies every month in addition to their various programs from affordable housing, senior housing, health clinics, job assistance programs, small business loans, an incubator and even a venture capital fund.

Over the last 13 years, KCCD has had over 300 partners ranging from the White House to fortune 500 companies, media, community organizations, educational institutions and government agencies for our various initiatives. By aligning the interests of the various institutions to a common shared goal or outcome, KCCD has been successful in bringing various stakeholders who would otherwise not be in the same room to address various issues in our community and leverage not only resources but impact. As one example, we recently hosted a Disaster Readiness Seminar in which we partnered with such institutions as the Fire Department, SBA, the local elementary school, Red Cross, Target, the local county supervisor's office, the City of Los Angeles Emergency Response Center, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the local ethnic media, church organizations and State Farm to train over 400 parents, business owners, church and community leaders and children how to be disaster ready while giving away over 400 emergency readiness kits.

Last month, we partnered with the White House to bring together a historic convening of AAPI Christian leaders from across the country for a White House Briefing. We also wrapped our 7th National Lighting the Community Summit around this briefing to train participants on how to partner with government and other stakeholders. I am pleased to share that we were successful in garnering the support and participation of over 150 AAPI Christian leaders of leaders that represent over 5 million people. We are excited about expanding our model and partnership beyond the Korean American community to the greater AAPI community and helping them to leverage their strengths and expanding their partnerships with the greater community to contribute to and impact our country.

Question 4: If people want to learn more about KCCD, what should they do?

We invite you to visit our website at to find out more about our various programs and initiatives. In addition, please visit to find out more about our AAPI Faith Alliance 1000 Initiative to build a national AAPI Christian voice in the public sphere and our recent National Lighting the Community Summit and historic invitation by the White House to convene AAPI Christian leaders for a White House Briefing.

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