Quite often, and especially for those living in Los Angeles, becoming more self-involved than just “involved,” is an easy status quo to fall into. Our days are rife with phone calls, meetings, traffic, more meetings, (ugh—more traffic!), networking events… sometimes sleep, maybe a little R&R. Our planners fill up with copious notes regarding personal and work goals, events, and maybe little else. What is life without business for us urban dwellers? For Avasant Marketing Vice President Jemie Sae Koo, life is much more than work—it is about giving back to the community and funneling one’s energy into the betterment of society.
Last week, on the first Saturday in September 2015, Jemie co-hosted a birthday party for herself and The Honorable Nannette Barragan who just recently resigned from Hermosa City Council to run for Congress. Yes, there was a red carpet and high caliber attendees. Yes, the party took place at a boutique French-Japanese fusion restaurant with to-die-for cuisine and drinks. But this was not your normal high-end affair—it was the fifth annual JSK Birthday Charity event: “A Celebration of Life & Paying It Forward Benefit,” and this year benefited the non-profit Sharefest. Rather than have a normal birthday bash, Sae Koo strives to set the precedent for helping communities with the most need through the establishment of an annual fundraiser. “It’s about giving, rather than receiving,” Sae Koo told me. “It’s about not forgetting where we’ve come from and staying true to who we are.” And for Jemie Sae Koo, her past was far from charmed. As a child, Sae Koo and her family crammed into a garage to live, and day-to-day necessities were hard to come by. In spite of such a challenging past, Sae Koo has climbed to the top of the ladder in both business, marketing, and in her ability to draw awareness to the less fortunate. “If you are in a position to help, do it,” she emphasized.
When choosing charities to support, Jemie Sae Koo opts to work with organizations whose primary focus is education and technology. Sharefest Community Development creates programs, youth days, and myriad educational programs to make education fun and accessible to at-risk children 11-18 in the Greater Los Angeles area. The non-profit organization has facilitated 12 annual workdays completing over 1,750 different projects to mobilize over 50,000 community volunteers for the completion of over $10 million dollars’ worth of support. Chad Mayer, Executive Director of Sharefest, told me about their Youth Development Academy, implemented to offer academic and extracurricular programs to underserved middle and high school students in Los Angeles County, presently one of their major focuses. Sharefest facilitates the mentorship and education of youth through collaboration with community partners including Phillips 66 and Harbor Community Benefit Foundation.
The event sold out in just under two weeks of its date, raising over $25,000 in donations and contributions to benefit Sharefest, and attracting attendees ranging from Stevie Wonder’s singer/songwriter son Kwame Morris, to Fox 11’s Emmy-Award winning Broadcast Journalist Susan Hirasuna, actor Eric Roberts, and ABC’s Extreme Makeover Dr. Jon A. Perlman, just to name a few. The night was inspiring, warm-hearted and full of delicious food celebrity Chef Jason Park of Maru and award-winning artisan cocktails from Chef Matthew Biancaniello of Eat Your Drink.
In our hectic lives, it is important to step aside and self-reflect. How can we bring our skills and passions to the table for the improvement of our community? Jemie Sae Koo utilizes her business and marketing savvy plus innate compassion for humanity to effect positive change and bring hope to the less fortunate. So the next time find ourselves engulfed in our busy schedules, we should take pause and think about how we ourselves can manifest change with our unique skillsets and passions. Because everyone no matter who they are, has something valid to bring to the table. Sae Koo can attest to that just by being who she is.