KENOSHA — Gateway Technical College has named four individuals as this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. humanitarians for their contributions to society, their school, business or profession, as well as their dedication to volunteerism or philanthropic work.
The Rev. Jonathan Barker and Karen Kempinen of Kenosha, and Betty Brenneman and the Rev. Leon Brown of Racine, will be honored at the 25th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at noon Monday, Jan. 21, in Madrigrano Auditorium of the Conference Center at Gateway’s Kenosha campus, 3520 30th Ave. This year’s theme is “One Voice, Many Stories.” Doors open at 11:30 a.m. The program will run from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Barker and Kempinen started Empower Uptown in Kenosha as a way to encourage the guests at the Grace Lutheran Welcome Center and other low-income residents in the inner city to see the value of voting, registering and casting their ballot; many for the first time. They helped remove those barriers that kept the homeless and poor from having a voice in their government and elections. Barker has also been an energizing presence on the CUSH Homeless Task Force. Kempinen also works with the homeless and other groups.
Brenneman is an active member of Coming Together Racine, a community group with a mission to actively challenge and eliminate racism in Racine. She started a weekly community book group at the public library with a focus on books related to systemic racism and is the first chairperson of the group 11-by-15. This task force is part of WISDOM, a statewide network of faith-based organizations, of which Racine Interfaith Coalition is a partner. The mission of the task force is to change and improve the criminal justice system. Brenneman volunteers at the Hospitality Center and advocates for prison reform in Wisconsin.
Brown has worked to feed the hungry and poor and set up programs to address the needs of youth and others in Racine. He has forged partnerships with groups throughout southeastern Wisconsin to expand his mission of feeding the hungry and poor, as well as meet their spiritual and personal needs. Brown heads up the Kingdom Manna Food Pantry in affiliation with Feeding America which touches the lives of more than 9,000 people monthly. The pantry gave out 2.8 million pounds of food in 2017 under his watch. Brown helped establish the Failure Is Not An Option Inc. nonprofit organization, and the Ability Inside of Me Scholarship Award for youth.
Attendees will hear from presenter Kirstin Anglea about “The Power of Your Story” and from keynote speaker and King reenactor Gregg Riley.
Dream Keepers, winners of the Peace Mentor, Kenosha Kindness Week and Peace Maker Awards, will also be recognized at the event.