SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — The scent of freshly baked taco casserole permeates dining room of the Grace Community Church as Kendra Taylor and other volunteers parcel out dozens of portions.
“We are going to serve 52-ish unsheltered individuals that are staying in hotels tonight,” she said.
Taylor launched the nonprofit Kindness Closet of Salem to take care of unhoused folks and others in need in her community.
It all started with a Facebook post, she said.
“… With me calling out, saying ‘would anyone be interested in serving a lunch for some people under the bridge, and it’s evolved into this massive thing, really,” she said. “We served 8,000 meals in 2020, we estimate, give or take a bit – but 8,000 (meals) from 50 sack lunches in 2016.”
When word got around of what Taylor and others were doing, the demand grew, thus the Kindness Closet of Salem was born.
“In addition to the meals, we usually take tarps, tents, sleeping bags, hygiene kits out to the different camps around the city, or an immediate need that can be met,” she said.
Another goal of the Kindness Closet is to not only provide meals, but also provide folks a human connection.
“Maybe some of these people aren’t going to see anyone all day and just drop this food off and they get this human connection,” she said. “And that is really important to us. So that’s the best part.”
Starting the group changed Taylor’s personal priorities, prompting her to go back to school.
“So it actually started my journey back to school,” she said. I am in the Bachelors of Social Work program at Portland State. So it’s changed my whole life — a little Facebook post.”
Taylor said she has big plans for the future for Kindness Closet. In the next ten years, she hopes to open up a laundry, shower and storage facility where people can wash their clothes and take a shower to possibly prepare for things like job interviews.
KOIN 6 and Portland’s CW want to recognize the great contributions women have made to our nation and local communities. Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence that women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.
Throughout Women’s History Month, KOIN 6 and Portland CW will highlight four local women who inspire, lead and forge the way for other women. It’s not just about one day or one month — it’s about what they do, day-in and day-out.
One woman will be named our area’s Woman of the Year and win a $1,000 donation to her charity of choice! From the more than 100 local winners, one woman will be selected and named Nexstar Media Group’s Woman of the Year.