Shawano Area Matthew 25 (SAM25) had its beginnings in 2012 when a group of concerned citizens met in a home to watch and discuss a documentary on homelessness called “The Line.” The group noted a need to provide basic necessities such as housing, food, and healthcare to those struggling with poverty in the Shawano Area.
Over the course of several months, other community members expressed an interest in these same issues. Finally, a meeting was arranged at Hope Community Church, and we began to brainstorm how we could be a part of the solution.
In 2013, we began meeting on a regular basis at Zion Lutheran Church and invited service providers in the area to educate us on available programs and services that already exist for those living with homelessness and poverty. We defined our mission and vision as an organization, and decided to name the organization Shawano Area Matthew 25 after the Bible verse in the book of Matthew, chapter 25, where Jesus directs his followers to provide for the needs of those who are considered “the least of these.” After continued planning and paperwork, SAM25 gained its status as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in 2013.
The opportunity finally arrived for SAM25 to open an emergency shelter called SAM’s House in Shawano in 2015. After initially being turned down by the Shawano City Council in May 2015, the shelter proposal was eventually accepted by the Council in September of 2015. Community volunteers, local service groups, churches, civic organizations, and businesses pulled together the resources needed to open and sustain the shelter.
SAM's House Emergency Shelter, located at 213 East Green Bay Street, Shawano, Wisconsin, first opened its doors on November 15, 2015, and remained open for the first shelter season until April 30, 2016.
During its first year of operation, SAM’s House was staffed by three paid employees and a group of dedicated volunteers. All the evening meals were provided by community members, church groups, or local services groups. A continental breakfast and a bag lunch was provided for each shelter guest before she or he left the shelter that morning and we served 58 individual guests. During the first year of operations, the beginnings of the Steps to Success Program began to be developed to help the shelter guests get back on their feet and gain their independence.
In the second year of operation, from November 2016-April 2017, the shelter hired an Executive Director and again had part-time staff and volunteers to serve our guests at SAM’s House. Over the course of season two, the shelter served 75 unique guests (58 adults and 17 children) for a total of 1,683 nights stay. 4,475 meals were provided over the course of the season, and the Steps to Success Program continued to develop its services linking a majority of the guests to employment and housing.
SAM25 continues to move forward with its mission and vision. In 2019 - 2020, SAM25 held a capital campaign for the renovation of a building located at 105 East Richmond St, Shawano. In October 2020, with just days to spare before the shelter season started, volunteers moved SAM25 from Green Bay St to its new home on Richmond St. The shelter opened on November 1, 2020 and has since grown to include a Resource Center (Open Mon-Thursdays all year 9am - 2pm), SAM25 Thrift Store (Open Saturdays 8am - 12pm) and a Community Health Clinic (Opening Summer, 2021. With a base of compassionate volunteers, board members, and staff, SAM25 will continue to reach out to those in need for years to come.