Sheila Harr at the King's Portion Community Compassion Center

King’s Portion President Sheila Harr stands in the Blessings in a Backpack room inside her organization’s new home. The King’s Portion Community Compassion Center’s open house will be Aug. 2 at 809 S. 9th St. The public is invited to come take tours and enjoy burgers grilled by Converse County Bank.

Editor's note: The King's Portion name change was incorrectly written in the print article of the Douglas Budget today, June 23. The correct new name is the King's Portion Community Compassion Center. The reporter and Budget regret the error.

The King’s Portion food pantry is closing their doors at their Madora Plaza location the end of July, but they are opening right back up in a newer, bigger and better location off of West Richards Street to provide additional, much-needed services to people in need at numerous levels.

They’re also undergoing a name change which better encompasses everything the King’s Portion does. The gregarious group will now be known as the King’s Portion Community Compassion Center and will be opening at 809 S. 9th Street Aug. 2.

But, don’t worry – food bank pickup will continue at the old Madora Plaza location until further notice.

Sheila Harr is founder, president and intrepid leader behind the King’s Portion. Sitting comfortably at a card table in the middle of pallets of food stacked high in the Madora Plaza King’s Portion offices, Sheila begins to tell the story of a God-given vision she had to help the people throughout the county.

SEE A NEED

A decade ago – on April 7, 2011, to be precise – The King’s Portion was born. As she started to share the vision brought to her by God, a beatific smile lights up her face. Her eyes twinkle, crinkling up at the corners. She’s beaming with excitement.

In the years since the King’s Portion began, the community food pantry incorporated other programs under their umbrella, such as Blessings in a Backpack, which provides students with food on the weekends; they also serve hot, homemade meals during fall and winter months for those people who are picking up food from the pantry.

“We offer food delivery services to the homebound, and we offer prayers to anyone who comes to us with requests,” Sheila said.

Just a couple of years into providing some food stability to community members, she was struck by an even bigger vision than the first one.

“Little did I know just two years after the birth of King’s Portion, God would give me a vision for the further expansion of our programs – hot meals not only for our clients but for anyone in the community who would like to come in, relax and enjoy a meal; groups for addictions, marriage and self-esteem. And the best part of it is, we already have everyone in place! So many people have come to us wanting to help, who see this vision, too,” she said.

And, in the not-too-distant future, the new center will offer transitional housing, filling a much-needed role in our community, she said.

“Transitional housing is a supportive, yet temporary, type of housing which is meant to bridge the gap as someone leaves jail or prison, or to families needing time to save enough money up for a deposit on rent. We will bridge the gap to permanent housing by offering structure, supervision, support for addictions, life skills and counseling, including mental health counseling. We will be a safe place in a supportive environment to begin addressing the issues which led them into financial struggles, addictions, low self esteem, and to begin to rebuild their support network,” she explained.

COVID-19 & FOOD INSECURITY

The coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020. People were laid off from their jobs by the millions. Some had savings, but the savings quickly ran out as parents, without work, struggled to support their families. People who had never experienced food insecurity suddenly found themselves without groceries.

“Those people needing our food pantry services skyrocketed by 300%. And, although COVID’s a horrible virus afflicting many lives, good also came out of the pandemic for The King’s Portion. I was able to apply for several COVID relief grants for infrastructure,” Shelia said.

Those grants allowed her to follow God’s plan for a bigger King’s Portion, a place where, as the name suggests, receiving care and compassion are part of walking through the doors, she said.

The King’s Portion received $157,000 in relief grants. With it, Sheila said they have purchased a 2017 model van for deliveries to school kids and homebound clients. They were able to buy a new walk-in freezer and commercial refrigerator so they could eliminate their 13 old freezers, many secondhand and often on their last legs.

“Plus, we were able to find a much larger facility with over 4,200 extra square feet more than our original location,” she said.

“Can I say God? Because this . . . this is all God,” she said. “This isn’t me . . . it’s God, working through all of us at King’s Portion. This is a God thing. If it’s not, I don’t know what is,” she said firmly, still smiling broadly.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Shelia’s husband, Jeff, and eldest son, Gyce, are in the process of remodeling the care and compassion center on 9th Street, she said, “so we can have more space for our current operations as we expand our services.”

With more space comes more expenses – increased rent, increased utility bills, and higher costs of food as King’s Portion continues to feed, at last count, 1,409 people – this year alone.

In 2020 King’s Portion provided food to 4,439 people.

King’s Portion appealed for help from Douglas’ City Council, under their Aid to Others program, asking for $53,000 to help offset operating costs.

According to the City of Douglas budget for FY 2021-2022, the city has allocated King’s Portion $20,000. In FY20-21, the city gave King’s Portion $25,000.

Sheila, always upbeat and positive, said she is thankful, as “it all helps us help people.”

“Our monthly average of families and individuals served is 235 people. The community of Douglas and companies are absolutely amazing supporting us with monetary donations. Many individuals and small business owners have said to me, ‘We need you. We need your plans for the expansion, the hot meals, counseling, transitional housing, and groups in our community. Douglas needs this,’” Sheila said.

LOVE THY NEIGHBOR

The 69-year-old man was trying to keep warm as he huddled in his car down by the river. It was snowing sideways and blowing to beat the band outside, during Douglas’ last big winter blizzard earlier this year.

Shelia was driving by the park in town when she suddenly had an overwhelming feeling she needed to turn around and go talk to the person in that car.

“God told me to turn around and go back, so that’s exactly what I did,” she said.

The man was cold. She bought him breakfast. Then she invited him home to a warm house. The elderly man spent a couple of nights with them.

Then, he moved on, saying he could manage, but noted he was appreciative of Sheila’s and Jeff’s kindness, helping him get out of the blizzard and feeding him hot meals.

This isn’t the first time Sheila and Jeff have housed people in their home. During the last handful of years they’ve brought more than a dozen people home – often people “in transition.”

“We want to be here for people. That’s exactly what we’re doing. It’s what Jesus did. He saw a need. He stepped up. We want people to know the care center is a safe place. It’s a supportive environment which will help people to rebuild their lives and relationships,” she said.

COME IN, FEEL LOVED

An open house is set for Aug. 2 from 4-7 p.m. at King’s Portion Community Compassion Center, and everyone in the community is welcome.

“Come on in, come see our new home, visit and ask questions. We want you to feel loved here. We want to be that place for folks . . . that bridge,” she said.

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