Tommy is an Environmental Specialist in KYCC’s Environmental Services unit, where he has been working for the past 24 years. Tommy has personally planted over 15,000 trees (!!) for KYCC, many of them in Koreatown. 

Where is your hometown?

Koreatown. I’ve lived in Koreatown for 18 years altogether. I used to live on the north side of Pico but now I live on the south side, which is on the border of Koreatown.

How are you involved with Koreatown?

I graduated from AADAP (Asian American Drug Abuse Program) in 1994 and I started working for KYCC’s environmental unit while I was still an AADAP resident. I worked for KYCC’s water conservation program for 10 years, learning the names of toilets, their brands, how they work, how to install and fix them. Imagine how much water is saved if all the toilets in an apartment building are switched from 5-gallons to 3-gallons. We also started giving away aerators for kitchen faucets and showerheads. Showerheads use 5-7 gallons per minute, and the ones we were giving away were using 2.5 gallons per minute. Within 10 years, we gave away 1 million toilets!

Between 1993 and the present, I believe we planted as many as 15,000 trees for the tree planting program. By working with KYCC, I was able to save money to open a bank account, get my own apartment and purchase a car. The year after I graduated from AADAP, I got married and had two stepdaughters, a daughter and a son.

I’ve also worked part-time at AADAP as a caseworker since 2009. I got certified; I went back to school to get a diploma as a drug and alcohol counselor. I oversee residents of all ages and ethnic groups.

I like working at KYCC because they help people, they work with people and they work with the community. As I was starting a new life, I wanted to give back to the community, be a part of society and show my gratitude to those who showed me how to live a new life.

What are your thoughts on Koreatown today?

I spend 80 percent of my time driving around Koreatown. I’ve seen a lot of growth, a lot of apartment buildings going up. There’s all this trash on the streets—if it’s not picked up, it goes straight to the ocean. People need to be informed that we all need to take care of our community.

Where is your favorite part of Koreatown?

There’s a rooftop garden on top of a building on Wilshire. We take care of the plants up there; we have a contract to water and maintain it. I like going up there and looking at the downtown view.