First Lady Tonette Walker

Hospitality Center director recognized as state ‘hero’

By Mark Schaaf of The Journal Times
Tuesday, April 22, 2014

As the Hospitality Center nears its three-year anniversary, the efforts of its director, the Rev. Kevin Stewart, have not gone unnoticed.

Wisconsin First Lady Tonette Walker on Monday recognized Stewart with the Wisconsin Heroes award for his work providing meals and comfort to about 165 people in need each day. The center, in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 614 Main St., started in May 2011 serving 17 people per day.

Stewart, who was surprised with the award as the Hospitality Center served lunch, credited a core group of about 30 volunteers and “countless” others who helped make the Hospitality Center one of the largest meal programs in Racine.

“I work with a great group of volunteers who really make this happen and they deserve so much credit,” he said. “They inspire me.”

In addition to meals, the Hospitality Center also provides transportation, clothing, computers, showers, community resources and access to medical care. In the winter months, the center offers overnight shelter and extended hours.

It’s come a long way since Stewart and others simply wanted a place to provide friendship and food to those who need it.

“It’s gone remarkably well. Beyond expectation,” Stewart said.

Bob Roe, who knows Stewart through St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Dousman, nominated him for the award after hearing about it through Walker’s son, Matt.

“Kevin came to mind immediately,” Roe said. “He is very selfless and very dedicated to this ministry. It didn’t take me a second to think of a name.”

The Wisconsin Heroes award is given each month to recognize volunteers who make the state a better place but often go unnoticed, Walker said.

The event Monday marked the 27th time Walker has traveled the state to recognize a dedicated community member. She said she got nearly teary-eyed while walking into the facility thinking about the work that goes on every day of the year.

“It is so humbling because you realize the magnitude of what they’re doing,” she said, “and it’s overwhelming.”