Today, Sherrie Laurie is the Executive Director of the Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center, a faith-based center where over 500 homeless and low-income individuals receive their lunch every day, and women in distress come to find shelter and training for job skills. But it wasn’t always this way.
When Sherrie was young, she had an uncle who was homeless. He frightened her, and Sherrie developed a fear of the homeless in her community. When she retired as a FedEx pilot to be with her family, Sherrie decided that it was time to overcome those fears.
She volunteered with the Downtown Hope Center and ran the shower house. Her fears quickly subsided, and it wasn’t long until Sherrie became a part of the board in 2010. When the Downtown Hope Center opened its new location on 3rd Avenue, she continued to run the shower house and was asked to become the Executive Director in 2014.
“As their hearts begin to heal from all of the trauma, and they learn to walk in the love of Christ, their hope is restored and their lives are renewed,” Sherrie says, “We see women come out of trafficking, find healing, and open their hearts because they feel safe again. They are able to get jobs.”
In addition to food, shelter, and showers, the Downtown Hope Center offers vocational training and employment through their bakery and culinary school. The women at the shelter have the option to participate in the baking program (Feed Me Hope Bakery) and develop skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. The bakery’s products are carried by many stores around town, and they offer catering with 100% of the proceeds returning to the Downtown Hope Center. The culinary school is a 14-week program that is available to anyone who is eligible for SNAP or who was just released from a correctional facility.
“We currently have over 100 students in our culinary school,” Sherrie says, “We have an 84% success rate with jobs. The lives of many Alaskans have been transformed.” If you would like to volunteer or simply learn more about the Downtown Hope Center, visit downtownhopecenter.org!