Wanda Riley started volunteering at Sojourner Truth House’s food pantry in 2016. One day each week, she helps visitors to the pantry who need food, clothing, or personal hygiene products. As a community intake volunteer, she greets all who drive or walk up to the pantry and makes sure that their information is correct.
Over the years, Wanda has helped many people who have touched her heart, like a man who needed food but did not speak English. Through a language translation app on a cell phone, the man was able to explain that he’d recently moved to the Gary area but was homeless and needed assistance. Using the app, Wanda spoke back to him in his own language and provided him with simple, ready-to-go meals with pull-tabs, pastas with lids, and other food that didn’t need to be heated.
“This makes you appreciate what you have at home,” Wanda said, adding that she devotes her time to volunteering at Sojourner Truth House because it gives her joy to help her neighbors.
Pat volunteers for Sojourner Truth House each week with a smile on her face. For over ten years she spends at least once a week helping the food pantry. Outside of volunteering, she is a musician and plays piano for her church. Watch this video to hear some memories she has while volunteering at STH:
The 2023 holiday season at Sojourner Truth House can be described in three words: Cheerful, Inspiring, and Grateful.
In November, on Giving Tuesday, Volunteers came together to Deck the Halls at Sojourner Truth House. Giving Tuesday—always the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—is known worldwide as the day to give back, whether monetarily or with time. Volunteers put up Christmas trees, hung lights, and decorated the day center with Christmas cheer.
Additionally, more than a dozen supporters participated in a 3-for-1 Giving Tuesday match, which quadrupled all donations to STH up to $5,000. The support from generous donors and organizations made Giving Tuesday a great success and helps sustain our mission of serving women and children experiencing homelessness.
In December, the annual Santa Store took place, and clients were able to spend their “Sojourner Bucks” on fun gifts for their family members or needed items for their home. Throughout the year, STH clients earn “Sojourner Bucks” by doing good deeds like participating in classes, being prepared for class, helping their instructors, or when someone notices them doing an act of kindness. More than 80 shoppers participated this Christmas. Check out a video of Dr. Pam Key explaining this event here:
The spirit of giving continued through the end of the month with many donations of food, clothing, hygiene products, toys, and bicycles from our supporters.
It was an inspiring holiday season for all at Sojourner Truth House, and we are so grateful for the support and generosity that make it possible for us to spread cheer to all we serve.
RoShawn is a mother of 2 and lives with her husband in NWI. She has volunteered for the Sojourner Truth House Food Pantry for a few months in 2023 and is their newest cook! Roshawn cooks breakfast for 20 clients and lunch for 30-40 clients four days a week. She prides herself on cooking with love and compassion, keeping in mind the clients she helps serve. Outside of STH, RoShawn owns her own catering company, Goodies by Ro. Learn more on her Facebook page!
Gregory Traylor is a US Army veteran and volunteer at Sojourner Truth House who knows firsthand what it’s like to live on the edge of losing his home. After an injury left him unable to continue working at his place of employment, Gregory began an extremely difficult search for affordable housing. All he wanted was a stable place to call home. While he searched, he found STH as a place to offer his time and talents.
Gregory helps in the food pantry and wherever else he is needed, four days a week. One day, he asked other volunteers and STH staff if they knew of any apartments that had an opening for him. A PHJC Sister told him about the Linden House, a nearby affordable housing ministry for low-income seniors that is sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.
Gregory said, “I went back to my apartment and started packing and I just hit the floor praying. I said, thank you Jesus, it’s about time.”
He now is a resident and a maintenance worker at the Linden House, but still spends as much time as he can volunteering at Sojourner Truth House, offering his time whenever it’s needed.
Airiel Crenshaw, STH Volunteer Coordinator, said about Gregory, “Mr. Traylor has been an extremely reliable volunteer who has shown a dedication to Sojourner! He’s always available to help wherever the greatest need is.”
As the final days of summer approach, the Sojourner Truth House garden received its last day of cleaning up before fall arrives. The garden has several vegetables, including squash, tomatoes, cucumber, and zucchini.
On Saturday, September 16, a group of Millhouse Engineering & Construction Inc. volunteers offered their time and talents to harvest vegetables and clean the areas. This is their second time this year volunteering at STH, and they recalled seeing the starter plants that had just begun sprouting the last time they were there.
Volunteers harvested an impressive 201.5 pounds of produce that day. Afterward, the volunteers began cleaning and laying mulch in the garden beds that no longer produce for the summer. Once their scheduled time drew near, they realized they could not finish everything they wanted to accomplish. Rather than save it for another group, the managers huddled together and agreed to extend their service time to complete spreading the mulch.
“Once we gave them the thumbs up to continue, I heard the rumble of a flatbed hand cart that I refer to as Santa’s Sleigh,” said Kristy Olsen, Community Resource Supervisor. “The large, red, metal flatbed that we store in the pole barn for moving furniture and donations was being rolled out of the pole barn, across the parking lot, and into the garden. The flatbed carried the largest totes the volunteer team could find in the barn.”
When Kristy complimented their ingenuity, the volunteer said, “That is what we do! We find creative solutions to problems, and we make it work.”
Unveiling Hope: New Art Wall Mural Brings Hope to Participants
As a part of its Art Therapy course, Sojourner Truth House worked with its participants to create a new art mural adorning one of its classroom walls.
STH serves women experiencing homelessness and their children through programs to help them obtain housing, such as career services, intensive case management, counseling, art therapy, and more.
The idea for the art mural came from Art Therapist Instructor Chasity Armstrong. Her goal was to create a mural that participants could see themselves in. The inspiration for the design is to look like a clock with participants able to see the progress when they first arrive at STH.
“Art therapy is a way to connect with yourself, your spirit, and the world,” says Director of Client Services, Dr. Pamela Key. “Art shows you to look at the good; we should look at the good in everyone. Everyone has different situations. We hope our clients just become a better version of themselves. We celebrate everything that they accomplish.”
The mural took three months, with Chasity, STH clients, and children working on the mural. “One important part of the mural is that the women have no features,” says Chasity.
“The faces have no features,” says Dr. Key. “This is so our clients can see themselves in it. They’re already there. They’re here.”
Each woman represents different aspects of how a woman goes through the process at STH. A woman is working in the STH garden, which also shows the woman working on her roots. There’s a child with a woman, highlighting women with children are welcome. Another woman is working on the computer, showing the career services programs at STH.
“I saw myself in each woman there,” says a client. “It gives me hope. I learned so much about the power of being a woman by being at Sojourner. They teach that here. This is more than just a job to them; STH is a ministry.”
Chasity Armstrong and Dr. Pamela Key talk with clients about the art wall.
Macy’s will open its latest Region location in Highland Saturday.
The New York City-based retailer, one of the largest and longest-running department store chains, will open a new smaller format store in the Highland Grove Shopping Center.
The store will take over the former Marshalls space in the outdoor shopping mall at Indianapolis Boulevard and Main Street on the far south end of Highland, just north of Schererville and just east of Munster.
A ribbon-cutting will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Market by Macy’s will occupy a 35,625-square-foot storefront at 10429 Indianapolis Blvd. Macy’s invested $1.68 million to renovate the storefront in the shopping center, Highland Building Commissioner and Zoning Administrator Ken Mika said.
Macy’s has been rolling out its new Market by Macy’s concept, which the retailer describes as “the Macy’s you know & love — just a smaller version.” It’s opened the new stores in Texas, Georgia, Missouri and in the Evergreen Plaza in south suburban Evergreen Park by Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood.
“These new store formats not only provide customers with curated and on-trend looks within a convenient shopping experience but also offer events with local vendors and more, all while embracing a new space and new vibe,” Macy’s said in a press release.
“Macy’s new format provides customers with all the benefits they know and love from the full-line store, including curbside pick-up and the opportunity to earn Star Rewards with their Macy’s card,” the press release said.
“Additionally, it will offer a range of convenient services through the ‘At Your Service’ desk. Customers can easily make purchases, returns, bill payments and pick up their Macy’s.com orders at this desk,” according to the press release.
The smaller stores are meant to make shopping quick and easy while still offering the latest fashion trends. Market by Macy’s carry leading brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Adidas, Lancome and Levi’s.
The Market by Macy’s stores stock skin care products, employ beauty advisers and offer beauty services like foundation matching. They have new items arriving weekly.
The outdoor Highland Grove is one of Northwest Indiana’s biggest shopping centers with 540,932 square feet of retail space. It’s home to Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Party City, Petco, Burlington, Ashley HomeStore and other retailers, as well as restaurants like Olive Garden, Chipotle, Qdoba and MOD Pizza.
The Highland Market by Macy’s plans on giving back to the community. It’s slated to host 20 women and staff from Sojourner Truth House in Gary Thursday for a private shopping trip to buy clothes and back-to-school items for their children.
“Sojourner Truth House is a village of hope that empowers women and their children,” Macy’s said in a press release.
“Their unique model of service and collaborative actions inspires the human spirit so that participants can improve their quality of life and become contributing members of their communities,” the press release said.
“Macy’s is committed to giving back, sharing joy and being there in times of need for the local community,” according to the press release. “Macy’s continues to partner with local organizations whose impactful work plays a vital role in strengthening and enriching the local community and beyond.”
The Marshalls space has been vacant for a few years. It opened up when Marshalls hopped across the street a to the newer Shops on Main in Schererville, following Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Macy’s operates stores in the Southlake Mall in Hobart and the River Oaks Center in Calumet City. It has a large Chicagoland presence after buying out the former Marshall Field’s chain, notably operating Marshall Field’s former flagship store on State Street in the Loop.
August 11, 2023 | By Marlene A. Zloza, Northwest Indiana Catholic
Shoes come in all colors, sizes and styles, and chances are you have at least one perfectly good pair in your closet that you never wear, which makes them a perfect fit for Sojourner Truth House.
The women’s resource center is in the midst of a Shoe Drive that is accepting donations of all kinds of new and gently used shoes – men’s, women’s and children’s – through Aug. 31.
“We are asking people to donate their gently used pairs of shoes, and for every pound of shoes we collect, we receive 40 cents, which will contribute to our mission and programs,” said Angela Paul, STH executive director.
“The donated shoes will be sent to developing countries, where they will help people create micro-enterprises and improve their lives by selling the shoes,” explained Shelley Boyer, special events coordinator for the Poor Handmaids of Christ, STH sponsor, and a Community Ambassador for STH. “We work with an entrepreneur program that teaches people how to make a living and also to cover their own feet if they need shoes.”
Denise Carney, another STH ambassador from Crown Point, has been taking the donated shoes home to sort and band or tie them in pairs before returning them to store at STH. “I’ve already found 40 single shoes, which we can’t use, so I want to stress to bring in only pairs,” she said. “We have every kind of shoe, including plenty of gym shoes.”
In addition to a barrel outside the main entrance to STH, collection boxes are available at a number of churches, offices and businesses around Northwest Indiana. To see the complete list, or to add a site, visit sojournertruthhouse.org/shoe-drive/.
“It’s a way to get people to contribute without having to give money. The funds we raise will help our clients with their personal needs, things like meals, clothing, security deposits for housing … all kinds of expenses as they get back on their feet,” said Paul.
Another fundraiser that keeps STH going is the annual Walk for Sojourner Truth House, held for the 24th year on June 10. “There was a lot of excitement this year, with about 200 walkers, and it was a great success,” said Paul.
“Our goal was $110,000, and we exceeded that by raising $120,084.26,” added Boyer.
Both women agreed substituting bubbles for colored powder to mark the race was very popular. “We had bubbles at the stations, on the walk perimeter, coming out of shooters and bubble cameras, and everyone really enjoyed them,” Paul said.
“They were so much easier to clean up, too,” said Carney.
Coordinating the shoe drive and the STH Walk this year are the new Community Ambassadors for STH, an auxiliary that was formed in January. Boyer and Carney are among the 18 members who meet at 6 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month at STH.
“They are our spokespersons, embodying our pillars of advocacy, awareness, fundraising and volunteerism,” Paul explained. “They find things happening in the community and get us involved, get our name out there.”
The latest project undertaken by the ambassadors, who register with a $25 membership fee, is “Five Loaves and Two Fish,” which invites organizations and businesses to sign up to hold a monthly food drive for the STH food pantry.
Five sponsors have already signed up, and Paul noted that if collecting food is not convenient, the donor can provide a gift card for the purchase of needed supplies. “We have one church that gives us a $100 gift card for groceries,” she said.
“Eventually, we hope to get 52 organizations signed up, and then each one will only have to hold a food drive once a year,” added Carney, who became an ambassador “because I think Sojourner Truth House is a worthwhile cause.”
Boyer, a fundraiser by profession, joined the auxiliary “because it’s a nice way to bring people in to help STH. There are so many ways to help.”
For more information about the ambassador program or volunteering with STH, email email@example.com or call 885-2282 to RSVP for an upcoming STH Coffee and Conversation meeting and tour; future dates include Tuesdays, Aug. 8 and Sept. 12, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., and Thursdays, Aug. 17 and Sept. 21, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
Last November, a young man wearing a sweatshirt and sandals walked up to the clothing bins outside the Sojourner Truth House in Gary.
The man grabbed a coat that came halfway up his arms. Although he was very grateful to have the ill-fitting coat, volunteer Dennis Kenning knew they could find him something better in the pile of donated winter jackets.
Dennis and his wife, Sharon Kenning, asked what else they could help with. The man, who wore a size 13, needed an appropriate pair of shoes for the freezing temperatures. By coincidence, Dennis looked down and noticed a gently used pair of Nikes in a size 13, something STH rarely receives.
“It gave us chills,” Sharon said. “It got down to 19 degrees that night. If this young man was sleeping on the streets that winter coat and those shoes could have made a huge difference for him.”
STH, a nonprofit organization, primarily serves as a food pantry to Gary residents. It also provides women and children living in local shelters with a day center program to attend throughout the week.
STH opened its doors in 1997 at 410 W. 13th Ave., after Sister Joan Fisher saw a need for an organization like this in Gary.
At the food pantry, clients are eligible to receive a food basket containing grains, protein, dairy, and fruits or vegetables once every 30 days. Food baskets are designed to last clients for a few days. They are also eligible to receive personal hygiene items once every 90 days.
The food pantry is open Tuesday through Thursday from 9-11 a.m. and 1-2 p.m. STH receives food from the government, the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana and donations.
“We recognize the strong need for help here in Gary. We see the disparity,” said Sharon, a Valparaiso resident. “We’ve had people turn down milk because they don’t have a refrigerator to put it in.”
STH’s food pantry can serve 270 clients per week, though nutritious foods aren’t always available. Recently, STH started the “Five loaves and two fish initiative,” which asks for churches, organizations or businesses to commit to participate in one food drive a year to help support the food pantry.
Sharon said this initiative can add to STH’s budget, and help put more nutritious foods in baskets. To donate, contact Sharon Kenning at 219-789-2222 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “5 Loaves & 2 Fish.”
STH is also looking for volunteers to assist with its garden, the food pantry, and clothing closest that’s available to women and children.
“As the need in the community grows, we need more assistance to make it easier,” Volunteer Coordinator Airiel Crenshaw said. “The more the merrier.”
Women who attend the day center program have the opportunity to attend classes designed to identify the root causes of financial and emotional instability, and how to overcome those barriers. On-site case management services assist women with finding employment and housing, Executive Director Angela Paul said.
The center serves nearly 20 women and their children each day. Women who’ve walked through STH’s doors have lived in hotels, on the streets and inside rented storage units, said Pam Key, director of client services.
“We’re desperately in need of affordable housing in Gary,” she said. “Some of the reasons women are becoming homeless is because they can’t afford the housing. There’s a need for awareness to our problem of homelessness in Lake County and the state.”
The day center is available to residents across Northwest Indiana and beyond. Women who attend the program receive breakfast and lunch, and have the option to pick out gently used or new clothes from the clothing closet if necessary.
STH accepts donations of gently used clothing items, accessories and small appliances. Crenshaw said STH also tries to provide women with a variety of home furnishings and cleaning supplies once they move out on their own.
“It’s a very worthwhile mission to help these women get back their independence, and back on their feet,” Sharon said. “We have a passion for it because we see the need.”