Shalom Center celebrates 35 years of service
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Fourteen years ago, Kenya Reap and her then-boyfriend decided they needed to leave Chicago for a new start.
“I had $200. We went to the Metra station and looked at the map and picked a place to go. We had never even heard of Kenosha before,” she said. Reap was 19.
They got on the train and got off at the end of the line at the Kenosha station. They did not know anyone here. They had no place to go.
“We walked over to the police station,” Reap said, and the police recommended the Shalom Center.
Reap spent a few weeks at the Shalom Center’s INNS program before she got on her feet. She’s been on her feet ever since.
The Kenosha News reports that the Shalom Center recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of its soup kitchen.
Reap now works at the center, working as the kitchen manager. She organizes the daily meals for residents of the shelter as well as the meals served by the soup kitchen in the evening and the network kitchens at five churches.
For the 35th anniversary event, the center opened its new facility, for tours, and served lunch to visitors as well as residents.
Karen Johnson, a member of the center board and daughter of founder Greta Hansen, said they were celebrating 35 years of continuous operation of the meal program.
“I believe we are the only soup kitchen in the whole state that has served every day for this long,” Johnson said.
In the early years the soup kitchen rotated between two sites, the Christian Youth Center and Grace Lutheran Church. Later it moved to an old school building at and last year to its current site.
“In the first two years 3,500 volunteers helped serve meals,” Johnson said. “Over the 35 years, it’s likely there have been thousands and thousands of volunteers.”
Churches and other groups still send crews of volunteers every day to serve food and wash dishes. “We think we’ve served nearly 2 million meals,” Johnson said.
As many as 100 people turn up to eat at the soup kitchen most days, Reap said, with as many as 60 coming to the satellite sites.
Past volunteers came to see the new facility on its anniversary.
Bea Lundgren — who described herself as being 90-plus — was one of the original volunteers helping Hansen.
“I think it’s fabulous,” she said of the facility. “I came because I want to go on a tour.”
Lois VanDahm and her husband Tom also came for the tour.
They were friends of Hansen and her husband, and volunteered for most of the Shalom Center’s history.
Lois, 90, still makes cupcakes for her church group to serve on the days they serve at the soup kitchen.
She said Hansen, who died in 2014, would be proud to see the organization she founded still thriving.
And she said she keeps a little bit of her old friend by her side.
“I have a cane that was hers,” she said. “And I use it. When I do, I feel like I’m walking with royalty.”
Information from: Kenosha News, http://www.kenoshanews.com