By Sara Smola, Photos by Mario Galeano
While many teens were loafing around on their summer break, Arcadia’s Richard Dong, 17, and his 16-year-old brother, Eric, were busy making a difference. The two have received multiple academic and musical awards between them, including the President’s Volunteer Service Award at gold level and second place at the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition.
But the Dong brothers say their community service and philanthropic efforts are their proudest accomplishments. They are putting their money where their heart is by establishing The Richard and Eric Dong Endowment Fund at Union Station’s Family Center, benefiting children who are experiencing homelessness. The Dongs generously contributed $25,000 to the fund through their personal investment earnings and from piano performance fundraisers.
The fund is specially designed to provide scholarships for children in sports, music, and the arts; children’s books; and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights educational programs.
Union Station Homeless Services has grown since its inception in 1973, when a group of community volunteers opened a simple hospitality center to serve poor and homeless men in downtown Pasadena. While the outreach efforts and resources have grown exponentially, the program’s core mission has not: “Every person deserves a life of dignity and a safe place to call home.” The nonprofit offers a wide variety of services including street outreach, intake assessments, care coordination and navigation, meals, shelter, housing, and employment development.
With 45 years of providing life-changing services, Union Station Homeless Services is the largest such provider in the San Gabriel Valley. Last year, it helped more than 700 people find housing.
Over the summer, in honor of the Dongs’ generosity, a ceremony was held at Union Station’s Family Center, a 50-bed shelter for families with children experiencing homelessness. The celebration was attended by prominent community members, including Congresswoman Judy Chu and former California State Assembly member Mike Eng.
“It was important for us to keep the legacy and ideals of justice, equality, and freedom for all that Robert F. Kennedy embodied alive,” the brothers noted. “We felt that Union Station embodies those ideals. Therefore, to honor Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, we chose to create this endowment on the 50th anniversary of his last campaign.”