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'This place is necessary': Hospitality Center keeps hope alive
An oasis of compassion Downtown

'This place is necessary': Hospitality Center keeps hope alive

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RACINE — Ken Michur sat at a table in the back of the Hospitality Center and painted the room in front of him on a postcard size piece of paper.

“Most of my life has been surrounded by art,” Michur said, who is trying to get back into creating art after falling into “financial distress.”

Michur said he works but he also comes to the Hospitality Center, 614 Main St., to get clothes if he needs them, a good meal and other services.

“They provided clothes for me when I had hardly nothing to wear,” Michur said. “If it wasn’t for this place I’d be a goner.”

The Hospitality Center aims to be a one-stop shop for people in need of clothes, food, transportation, health care and any other service it can provide to its patrons who are struggling financially.

The Hospitality Center is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and serves upwards of 100 people per day.

“There are a lot of people who haven’t heard from us until they’ve gotten hit by those hard times,” said Carl Fields, program manager for the Hospitality Center. “And then they communicate differently. They’re asking different questions. Different questions lead to different answers and those answers lead to us.”

Community lends a hand

On Thursday, volunteers from the Aurora Health Center on Washington Avenue in Mount Pleasant provided women’s wellness exams including breast exams. Food was catered by Hope City Church and Roma Lodge.

Crystal Rieser, family physician for Aurora, said they had a steady flow of women seeking treatment.

“When we do the breast exams, we can show them what to do,” Rieser said. “If we tell them what to do and what to look for, it could be checked early and that could be potentially lifesaving.”

Rieser added the women they examined were grateful for the service.

“We have models where they can feel what abnormal feels like and its good for them to practice,” Rieser said. “A lot of them didn’t know what to look for and we’re walking them through the exam and they’re very happy to get that information.”

Bringing services to the people

Pastor Seth Raymond, executive director of the Hospitality Center, realizes the majority of people who come there live in the Downtown area, which means it could be difficult for them to get resources like health care or food.

Raymond said volunteers are “the lifeblood” of the Hospitality Center.

“It helps us stretch our budget,” Raymond said of people donating food and supplies. “And also it helps break down those barriers that people perceive between an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality ... We break down those misconceptions about people who are in poverty.”

Raymond said he tries to bring services and resources to the people they serve. Even simple things such as bringing representatives from Andis Company from Sturtevant to the center to provide a monthly “salon,” and providing laundry services at Velvet Touch Laundromat at 2027 Lathrop Ave., on the last Wednesday of each month.

Katasha Hodge has been a volunteer since last November and said volunteering has helped her “grow” and helped improve her self-esteem.

“I was down and out and I needed to be around people,” Hodge said. “For me, helping people, it helps me. It makes me feel good about myself.”

Every day, Hodge said she looks forward to coming to the Hospitality Center to interact with the guests.

“Without this place, where would everybody go?” Hodge said. “This place is necessary. It needs to be here.”

Jerry Baker has been coming to the Hospitality Center for the past three years.

As a diabetic, Baker said the Hospitality Center is a good place for him to get a good meal and manage his blood sugar.

“Sometimes I get up and I don’t have anything in the house to eat or I don’t feel like cooking because my sugar might be low,” Baker said. “I put my coat on and come down here and get sweets and stuff to help bring (my blood sugar) up.”

Baker said he’s appreciative of the information and services that come to the center but one of the best things for him to do is to be social with the staff and other guests.

“I’m living in a senior citizen home and sometimes where I’m at, people don’t come out and socialize,” Baker said. “So I come down here in the morning, drink coffee, get a little socialization and it makes you feel good instead of sitting at home and by yourself all day, you got somebody to talk to.”

‘Hope week’

As part of their “hope week,” roughly a dozen volunteers from Hope City Church, located at 944 Main St., served lunch Thursday to the guests at the Hospitality Center. Chili dogs, steamed green beans and fruit was on the menu.

Lead Pastor Tyler Butler said it’s important for his congregation to get out and serve the community.

“We don’t just want to be a church in the city, we want to be a church for the city,” Butler said.

It was the church’s second time volunteering at the Hospitality Center but congregation members hope to do it more often.

“It’s humbling,” Butler said. “It’s a great opportunity to love people, to serve people and I think that’s what the gospel is all about.”

“There are a lot of people who haven’t heard from us until they’ve gotten hit by those hard times. And then they communicate differently. They’re asking different questions. Different questions lead to different answers and those answers lead to us.” — Carl Fields, program manager for the Hospitality Center

“There are a lot of people who haven’t heard from us until they’ve gotten hit by those hard times. And then they communicate differently. They’re asking different questions. Different questions lead to different answers and those answers lead to us.”

— Carl Fields, program manager for the Hospitality Center

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Reporter

Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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