Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York
"WE’RE THE FASTEST GROWING POPULATION"
Fast fact: Tweet her @linder737
Linda Lee leads the oldest and largest social services agency that serves New York City’s Korean American community. She is responsible for the daily operations of multiple KCS sites that provide after-school programs, adult center and ESL classes, programs for the aging through three senior centers, public health and research services. Lee serves on the board of NAMI NYC-Metro, and recently became the only female board member of Coffeed. Prior to her current position, Linda worked in operations for the New York State Health Foundation and as a social work intern in the North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health System. Linda is married and mom to a mischievous two-year old named Drew.
NYN: HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN YOUR FIELD?
LL: The summer before my senior year in college, I had a very interesting opportunity that I took to be a camp counselor for inner-city children from the Bronx. I realized, “you know what, I want to help people, I don’t know how yet, but I just know I want to help people.” I was the only second-generation Korean-American that was working (at KCS) when I started. I just really felt strongly like, “you know what, I think I want to be a voice for people in my own community that don’t have a voice and to really serve a community that is underserved.”
NYN: DESCRIBE AN ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF.
LL: I think the thing that I’m most proud of at this point is the fact that we actually opened up a mental health clinic that is licensed by the state. We’re actually the first Korean nonprofit organization in New York State to receive this license. We have all bilingual social workers and psychiatrists and nurse practitioners – which I never thought would happen, but it did.
NYN: WHAT CHANGE WOULD MOST HELP THE INDIVIDUALS YOUR ORGANIZATION SERVES?
LL: If you look at the city contract dollars, (the Korean community) only receives about 1 percent of all the city contract dollars towards our communities. So there’s a huge discrepancy. We’re actually the fasting-growing population, more so than the Latino population. There’s just so much need, but then on the flipside of it, the other problem is that there’s not enough data out there. Budget equity, and having more data out there, that would help.
NYN: WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU RETIRE?
LL: I would love to do a triathlon at some point before I die. But on the more serious side, I think I would want to have some sort of influence on policy changes at the government level that reflect immigrants’ needs.
NYN: WHAT DO YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOUR JOB?
LL: I feel like the minion in my job actually, even though I have the title of executive director. I say that in a good way. I’m constantly learning from my staff.