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Korean American Grocers cook up meal of thanks

OLYMPIA - People in line at the Olympia Salvation Army kitchen were served up plates of flavored rice, corn, Korean barbecue beef and watermelon by a group of volunteers Monday.

The Korean-American grocery store owners said the lunch was their way of giving thanks.

"This is a thank you to all the American people for using our grocery stores," said Charlie Choi, owner of a store in Shelton. "It's showing them how much we thank you and building better relationships between America and Korea."

Volunteers from the Korean American Grocers Association, which has 800 members throughout the Puget Sound area and about 60 members in Thurston County, cooked and served meals for diners at the Olympia Salvation Army Kitchen at lunch Monday.

"It's something we like to do annually, to give back to the community," said Perry Park, the local chapter president and the owner of the Capitol Lake Grocery.

This year, the group volunteered at kitchens in Tacoma, Seattle, Everett and Olympia, executive director Jae Chung said.

The group also contributes to Korean-American social programs, sponsors church functions and awards scholarships to students of all races, said James Lee, president of the state organization.

More than 120 people came for lunch. Many greeted the volunteers with a "thank you," and a few said, "God bless you" to the servers across the counter.

"God bless YOU," one volunteer responded, as he scooped rice on a plate.

Venice Buhain covers education for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5445 or vbuhain@theolympian.com.

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