In the packed basement of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Arnetta Griffin called everyone to stop their eating and chatting and serving for a moment Saturday afternoon to celebrate one person.
“It was Linda’s birthday yesterday,” Griffin said, her arm around Linda Everhart, who had just turned 60. “Let’s all sing for her.”
So the crowd sang happy birthday. Twice.
Afterward Everhart — who comes every day to the ELCA Outreach Center where Griffin has been serving lunches for homeless people and people in need this winter — began to weep. “Thank you, mom,” Everhart said, hugging Griffin.
She said she began calling her mom because her own mother had died. “You’re welcome, baby,” Griffin said. “I love you.”
Griffin and her volunteers with God’s Kitchen of Kenosha held an Easter celebration Saturday at St. Luke’s, 6700 30th Ave. There was free food, Easter gifts for children, food, toiletries and haircuts.
“She’s still at it, but she’s getting stronger,” said Robert Longstreet of Griffin, saying that he watched when Griffin first started handing out meals in Uptown last year and has seen her efforts grow as others have stepped in to help.
Among her helpers Saturday was Gregory Bennett Jr., her nephew, who along with her son Jerrell Griffin were volunteering to give haircuts.
“I’m just giving back, paying it forward,” Bennett said.
Sandra Worthy and Angela Ramirez were also volunteering. Worthy met Griffin at church. Ramirez sought her out after reading about her in the Kenosha News and has volunteered at past events.
“I thought she was amazing because she was someone who had nothing to give, and she gave it all,” Ramirez said. “I said, ‘How do you do it?’ and she said, ‘With the help of God.’”