The Korum family name is a well-known name in Puyallup.
For many, the name evokes an image of the Korum Ford car dealership downtown, which is owned by Jerry Korum.
But now, with a new community center being developed by Step By Step, the nonprofit supporting at-risk pregnant women is shedding some light on another Korum face: Germaine Korum, Jerry’s wife.
When it came time to choose a name for the center years ago, Step By Step founder Krista Linden thought that the Germaine Korum Center for Women and Children was a perfect fit.
“It just felt like the right person,” Linden said. “(The Korums) are a very prominent Puyallup family (and) very generous to the community. I just felt like there was a good connection with the work they’ve been doing.”
The Germaine Korum Center for Women and Children will provide restaurant and catering services to the community and on-site job programs and skill classes for women. It’s expected to open next year, as Step By Step continues to raise $1.2 million needed to finish the project. Germaine, 72, was a benefactor of the center, and felt its values matched her own.
“(Linden’s) vision of teaching these women job skills is so important,” Germaine said. “I think it will be really amazing and go on to help generations.”
Over the years, Germaine developed a passion for helping others, especially children.
Germaine moved to Washington when she was 6 years old. After attending private schools all her life and graduating in 1963 from Holy Names Academy in Seattle, she went to work at Boeing. After marrying Jerry, her husband of 49 years, Germaine stopped working to take care of her two daughters, Sophia and Sonja.
When Germaine found out that Sonja had a learning disability, she made sure to get her the care that she needed. At the time, there weren’t many resources.
“I was surprised by how many parents wanted to pretend it didn’t exist,” Germaine said. “We learned to talk about it.”
With a fund put together by the Korum family, they started to donate to organizations that help those with disabilities or disadvantages. In 1994, the Korum for Kids Foundation was officially established.
“It was her vision to empower and enrich the lives of kids who might otherwise not have a chance,” said Sophia Korum-Hall, Germaine’s daughter.
The foundation has also donated to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, the YMCA, Girl Scouts and local school districts. In 2015, the foundation gave $500,000 to Step By Step to help purchase the land to develop the Germaine Korum Center for Women and Children.
Germaine also worked to bring awareness to lung cancer, which she was diagnosed with at stage 4 five years ago. Doctors gave her six months to five years to live. After three surgeries, she has to continue chemotherapy treatment, but said that she’s doing better.
“Right now I’m doing pretty good,” Germaine said.
Linden got to know the Korum family after first meeting Jerry at a local event. Over time, their families got to know each other well. Germaine has two daughters and four granddaughters, while Linden has seven daughters.
In October, Germaine’s granddaughter Cali passed away. Germaine said she struggled with drug abuse and mental illness, and that it meant a lot to see that Step By Step’s new center would have mental health counseling on-site. Having resources for people to turn to is more important than ever, Sophia added.
“(Krista) is in a position where I think that she can help people,” Sophia said. “So many of them lose hope. Had (Cali) run to somebody like Krista … it’d be a whole different story today for Cali.”
Now, Germaine said she loves to spend time with her family. It’s something others notice about her, too.
“She’s very passionate about her children and her granddaughters,” Linden said. “They’re very protective as a family of each other.”
“(She is) unconditionally passionate about her daughters, granddaughters, her community and her husband,” Sophia said. “She’s passionate about making the world a better place.”