Shawna Harris is the supervisor of St. John’s Breadline in Springfield, Illinois. Her organization provided over two hundred thousand nutritious meals each year to those who are struggling with hunger within our community. Friends, neighbors, and those facing difficult circumstances depend on St. John’s Breadline to provide a warm meal without shame or stigma.
Harris also has many dreams and ideas for the Breadline. She is hoping that she can achieve all of them even if she doesn’t have the money.
“Bigger space, because obviously when we get closer to the end of the month, we serve over 200 to 350 meals during a two hour meal period there are times when we have to stop serving because there are not enough seats,” Harris said.
The Breadline doesn’t just serve nutritious meals they also help those who can’t read. They have experts come in and talk about how to live a healthy lifestyle.
“Or we have one individual who can’t read and so it’s tough for him to read some of the nutrition information so he comes to us and asks questions. We have clinics that come in and will address some of the health issues, and so when he was able to come back to us and say ‘Hey, I’m no longer taking diabetic medication, I’m doing great!’ That’s a win for us, that’s a win for the community,” Harris said.
One of Harris’ favorite parts of working at the Breadline is when people who eat there get better and get their life in order. She feels very happy because she knows she is helping not only the people in front of her but the community.
“It proves by eating better, healthy choices you’re more likely to have more positive outcomes and so that’s been our push, is to make sure that not only we’re providing choice because it’s really important to empower people to make other choices if you could make choices at the very basic level of food, you could figure that it’s a ripple effect to empower them to make other choices in their life,” Harris said.
Harris has extensive experience working at the Breadline, but she points to one story that changed her life. This story takes place on a freezing day when a man walked in without a coat.
“This individual he was wearing scrubs, he had gone to the hospital the night before and was released from the hospital, but when he went to the hospital, the ER, his coat had to be cut off of him, so he didn’t have a coat, he didn’t have proper clothing and he came to us and said ‘hey I don’t have a coat, is there any chance that you’ve got a coat?’” Harris said.
“And I knew that day as soon as a coat comes in we get it out to somebody who needs it and so I knew that we had given out all the coats, but I was like I’m just going to go back and check to make sure. And as I was walking back, our back door rang, so I went and answered and it was- probably twenty coats. So I was able to go out there and wrap this man in this warm coat in the dead of winter, and he was just so thankful,” Harris said.
Harris is passionate in her work with St. John’s Breadline. Her commitment in serving others with love, dignity, and respect is evident in all that she does to assist those in need.
Shawna treats each individual as a human being, a friend, a neighbor, or a stranger that deserves to be treated as a human being in need of love and compassion. That is a lesson we could all take from Harris would be to remember to treat each other with kindness and not judgment.