On a Sabbath last August, members of Kenosha, Racine and Raymond churches gathered in Downtown Kenosha to pray for the wounded community and later spread out into Kenosha to volunteer in support of local cleanup efforts.
Local church leaders were looking for ways to help in the wake of the international spotlight after a police officer shot Jacob Blake, triggering protests and civil unrest.
“We wanted to come together and show some unity in Christ so we can unify with our community and help,” said Zack Payne, head network pastor for Wisconsin Southeastern Network Seventh-Day Adventist churches. “It’s a display of unity that we’re all able to come together and accomplish something — we’re here and we care.”
Payne says his leadership team wanted to do a follow up to the successful community outreach but with the coronavirus raging across Wisconsin, they found themselves with limited options in what they could do.
As they scanned the area, they saw that there were organizations already making meaningful change. The WISEN leadership decided to join forces with three of those organizations.
Armed with a $6,000 donation from the Lake Union and Wisconsin Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Payne and Lay Pastor George Andrews III showed up at the doorsteps of the organizations a few days before Christmas with checks for $1,500 each.
“They seemed to be doing a lot of good, so we were able to give to them with confidence,” said Payne.
Remaining funds donated were used to pay some expenses they incurred during the August event.
The Kenosha YMCA/Frank Neighborhood Project is putting the funds toward an after-school tutoring program at the Frank Elementary School. They’re currently assisting 72 students in improving their math and reading scores.
“This (donation) is tremendous blessing,” said Rachel Mall, the Y’s Youth and Family director. “Everybody is struggling financially so this money will help us continue the program.”
Karl Erickson, executive director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Outreach Center (ELCA), said he wasn’t expecting the windfall, but he, too, is grateful.
ELCA is a faith-based non-profit, focusing on sharing God’s love and its mission is to help residents become self-sufficient. However, with services curtailed because of the pandemic, they’re focusing on the immediate need of providing warm clothing.
Erickson says they have already used the money to buy hats and gloves. “We needed this,” he said.
The Shalom Center of the Interfaith Network is the largest food distributor and homeless shelter in Kenosha, providing 72,000 meals last year through their soup kitchen network and 21,000 shelter nights to single households and families.
The center’s executive director, Tamarra Coleman, said they were especially humbled to receive the unsolicited and unrestricted funds from another local organization.
“Last year was a rough year and so many fundraisers were cancelled,” she said. “For them to think of the Shalom Center is huge. We have a great community.”
Payne, who has pastored in the area for almost four years, was pleased to be able to help. “We are just grateful to be a light to our community,” he said.
IN PHOTOS: Jockey employees pitch in to build beds for Kenosha children in need
On Friday, Jan. 15, — and happening again next week — volunteers with the Jockey Being Family Foundation, the charitable arm of Jockey International, were gathered in a tent outside the Jockey corporate headquarters, 2300 60th St., building beds for the local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a charity that provides beds for needy children.
The local has given away 600 beds in three years and has consistently had a waiting list.