Jay Kang Leads North Puget Sound
From pastor to nonprofit leader, Jay Kang recently started his newest role as our North Puget Sound (NPS) District Director. He’s “super excited and hopeful” about this opportunity.
After serving as the Deputy Director for the Tacoma-based Korean Women’s Association for the last three years, Jay brings a team-based philosophy to NPS. He started working at LCS Northwest on Dec. 7.
His immediate goal for the 50-60 NPS employees is to support a team spirit where people work together. Everyone comes from a different mindset, so he encourages team members to speak up. To do that, he has to build trust. He describes himself as a patient but persistent person.
“I will work until we get there,” he said. “I see all roles as important, and I’m not above people. We all have a different function in each role.”
Building a team in a pandemic has challenges, as he would prefer to meet with NPS employees face-to-face. He’ll be hosting virtual meetings, and he’s “pretty good” about going back and forth over email.
After 20 years in the ministry, Jay decided to make a career change in 2006. His transition to social services was natural, as his focus remained on helping people. He drew strength from the people he served.
“I got challenged by them to live my life better,” Jay said. “I received more from them than what I gave.”
Jay’s social work career began with Safefutures Youth Center near the Highpoint area of West Seattle. He was a program manager working with kids who were often being recruited by gangs. He remembers helping a 15 year-old with meth addiction find recovery. That person now has a stable job and life.
From 2009 to 2017, Jay was the Family and Social Services Director for Neighborhood House. They provide general social services at Seattle, King County and Renton Housing Authority sites. He recently saw a former employee there who called him “uncle boss Jay.”
Living in Fredrickson, Jay decided to work closer to home when the KWA opportunity came up. His first job was Director of Development and Communications, an area outside of his expertise. The agency was having its 45th anniversary in two months, and there were no plans. His team was able to bring 600 people in for the celebration and raise $135,000.
“I learned that no matter what my role is, I’ll try to do my best,” Jay said. “It taught me humility.”
After six months at KWA, Jay was named the Deputy Director for the agency, where he oversaw all operations. KWA has a $40 million budget and 1,500 employees, many of them home care workers.
Jay has worked with refugees and immigrants as a pastor and in most of his social service roles. In his work for Neighborhood House, Jay was involved with the refugee council at the state level. He worked with immigrants at KWA.
While his career is important, Jay makes it clear that family comes first. When he was 15, his parents immigrated from South Korea to Philadelphia where he finished high school. He earned a BA in religion from Nyack College in New York, and master’s degrees in divinity and counseling from Biblical Theological Seminary which changed the name to Missio Seminary in Philadelphia.
Jay and his wife Angela have been married 31 years. They have two grown children, Andrea and Andrew. They all share a love for music.
“I still want to become an opera singer,” he said with a laugh.