Sunny Park’s Story

Community Foundation Donor Stories 0 Comments

SunnyPark“I was a child in Korea during the Korean War. We had nothing, but we still went to school. The only pencil I had was so short that I couldn’t hold it; I had to tie it to a stick to be able to use it. We had no paper, so we would write between the printed columns on old newspapers. That is how we studied. Then, all of a sudden, one day I got a dozen new pencils. Not just one—a dozen. And a notebook of paper was on my desk. We were all so excited. We started using these things without even asking where they came from. Years later, when I was a teenager, I learned it was American people who had sent those pencils and notebooks. I thought, ‘Wow! There are some people in this world who have enough that they can give to others. Good people. Generous people.’ And that’s how I first came up with my idea of being an American giver.”

That dream eventually led Park to this country where he remade himself as a successful entrepreneur. At that point, Park says, “I realized I had more than most people have. It was time to become a giver. I knew all the many reasons for doing this—from helping people to tax incentives!—but I didn’t know how to go about it.”

“One of my best friends was working with The Community Foundation and he urged me to set up a donor-advised fund. I did and I was so glad! It let me have the engagement like a private foundation without all the hassle. The Community Foundation was a great vehicle for me to use since I wasn’t sure how to go about helping others through my giving, but I knew I wanted to focus strongly on education.”

Park uses the adage, “Give someone a fish and they eat for a day; teach someone to fish and they eat for a lifetime,” to explain his philanthropic philosophy. “Most of my contributions are focused on education because I don’t believe in giving fish. There are lots of fish to catch and I want to teach people to fish. I will even give people fishing poles. But I have to know that the organizations I support will not just give fish. To me, the most valuable area where a young person can focus is on his or her education. That is the true path to success.”

“In business and in philanthropy, I want to be sure my money is spent well.” Having served on The Community Foundation’s board, Park knows the organization’s expertise at careful and objective evaluation of charities. “It is not always easy to find out where your money goes. But The Community Foundation spends so much effort on evaluating all sorts of organizations that I know I can rely on their report. I trust it.”

“One thing I’m doing through The Community Foundation is helping Iraqi children. I send school supplies. I want them to have good supplies. They may not know who sent their new pencils. They may not know who sent their new paper or crayons. But I hope that some day, they’ll be able to become givers, too.”