OKTA LA Takes Rice over Flowers for Gala to Help Seniors

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At this year’s annual gala, Overseas Korean Traders Association of Los Angeles (OKTA LA) has decided not to receive congratulatory flowers to celebrate the inauguration of the organization’s new president, a practice that is at odds with its tradition.

OKTA LA made its intentions clear on its invitation, writing that “contributors who want to send flowers to congratulate our event are encouraged to send rice instead.” The underlying intention of OKTA LA’s demand is to offer a helping hand to Korean-American senior citizens in L.A. and Orange County who are in need of food.

“Our president-elect Jung-sook Lim and chief officer Edward Son made the suggestion,” said OKTA LA’s current president Byeong-ho Min. “We all agreed with what they suggested as we feel that it will be a meaning gesture to help the community.”

Much like OKTA LA, many Koreatown-based community organizations are set to host similar year-end events to celebrate the holiday season. Most of those events also serve as fundraisers to support those in need as well as providing scholarships to students. However, a deliberate suggestion to accept donations over flowers is a rare instance.

“We were thinking of ways to make our event more special than it has been,” said Lim, who is set to lead OKTA LA. “Flowers could be a waste as there’s limited space to keep those after the event is over. While we appreciate the kind gestures of those who do send flowers, we decided that we are willing to take something that can directly be given back to the community to help those in need.”

With its decision, OKTA LA expects to receive rice worth up to $2,000 to $3,000, which should be about 300 to 400 large bags of rice for Korean-American senior citizens who may be going through financial struggles during the festive time of the year. OKTA LA added that it plans to decorate the rice bags with nifty ribbons before distributing them.

OKTA LA’s year-end event is scheduled to be held on Nov. 30 at 5 p.m. at Oxford Palace Hotel in L.A. Koreatown.

By Moon Ho Kim