Early in the morning on April 26, someone smashed the window of the passenger side window of the white food truck that Cheong Kim uses as a mobile food pantry for homeless people and seniors.
The thief or thieves stole cooking supplies and boxes of packaged food from inside. They also siphoned the gas by drilling a hole in the gas tank. The truck, parked in a Midtown auto shop lot, is clearly labeled “Serving the Homeless” on the side.
Kim, a 79-year-old Korean immigrant and longtime Anchorage resident, has stockpiled packaged goods in the truck in recent years to give to those in need. The city has given him so much, he said, he wants to give back.
Kim stepped up into the truck last week, his tennis shoes crunching on shards of glass. He swept his hand at empty shelves and vented frustration. The packaged food -- boxes of Ritz crackers, cookies -- he bought with his own money, Kim said.
“There are other places, if they wanted to get gas,” Kim said, shaking his head. “Why?”
Police went to the auto body shop on Dowling Road about 4:11 p.m. on May 2 and recorded two break-ins there on April 26: One at 1:30 a.m. and another a few hours later, said Kendra Doshier, a spokeswoman for APD. A suspect has yet to be identified.
The white truck had been parked at the shop for three years with no problems, said Ilsoo Kim, the shop’s owner and a longtime friend of Kim’s who is not a relation. He said he’d been at the location for decades and has only recently had issues with crime, a sentiment shared by many business owners in Anchorage in recent years. Within the past five years, Anchorage has seen higher-than-average reports of property crime, though this year has been lower in terms of theft, according to data provided by police.
Cheong Kim said he didn’t report the break-in sooner because he didn’t feel it would be a priority for police. He spent time driving around looking for the culprits, clutching stills from surveillance footage.
Kim has parked the truck on Klevin Street in Mountain View and near Delaney Park in downtown Anchorage, he said. He has stocks of packaged food and water to hand out. He doesn’t cook inside the food truck, he said, which would take extra permits from the city.
Kim immigrated from South Korea during wartime four decades ago. He ran a cleaning business and volunteered for years at Bean’s Cafe. About three years ago, he converted his white truck into the mobile food pantry. Kim’s idea is to reach people who aren’t always able to make it to the downtown shelter or soup kitchens, said Key Getty, an Anchorage accountant and consultant who has been helping Kim set up a nonprofit.
Kim experienced the Korean War as a child, Getty said. “He knows firsthand what being hungry means.”
Insurance can repair the estimated $2,500 in damage to the truck, Ilsoo Kim said. But Cheong Kim said he can’t afford to replace the stolen food right now.
Kim said he was disappointed in what happened in the city that treated him well for so long. But he said he was determined to fix up the truck and keep serving others during his retirement.
Update: After the publication of this story, a GoFundMe account was created to collect donations for Kim. Find the link here.