Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

New permanent home for Rick’s Place and Every Third Saturday

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Tom McKenna is a former Marine and member of the Board of Directors for the non-profit called Every Third Saturday. He retired from the military more than ten years ago, but he’s still on the battlefront.

The forces he fights against these days are isolation, loneliness, feelings of worthlessness, and loss of hope. McKenna struggles with these forces himself, saying, “Some days are better than others.” He has made it his life’s work to help other veterans tend what he calls these“soul wounds”—which can sometimes be torturous enough to cause suicide.

Along with his wife Jessi, McKenna has run Every Third Saturday (a monthly goods and services distribution program for vets) and Rick’s Place (a donation based coffee shop) out of three storefronts on E. 54th St. since 2016. When the building went up for sale in August, they made an offer they were sure was good enough to close the deal. It didn’t, and someone else outbid them.

Photo right: Tom McKenna (with his service dog Mack) in front of Every Third Saturday’s future home at 5400 43rd Ave. S. He said, “Everything we do to serve homeless and struggling veterans will be magnified when we move into our new space.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“The owner of South Side Auto had his building for sale for three years,” McKenna said, “and it was literally around the corner at 5400 43rd Ave. S. Jessi and I hadn’t considered it because it was so different from our space. In hindsight, we think we had some tunnel vision going on. When we lost out on the building we were leasing, we started reimagining how we could use the South Side Auto space —and we thought we could do an even better job of serving homeless and struggling veterans there. We bought the property, and we hope to be there for the next 50 years.”

McKenna envisions that there will be three stages of development. Stage I, which he hopes to complete by Dec. 1 of this year, is to make the building safe for habitation. A new concrete floor needs to be poured, and better doors, windows, and insulation need to be installed. He said, “We’ve received some generous offers of in-kind donations for electrical work and sprinkler fitting. We could really use some help in the plumbing department. Completing Stage I will mean that all of our stored goods, clothing, and supplies could be moved to and distributed from the new building.”

Stage II has a target date of spring 2019. The lease on Rick’s Place expires in late February, and McKenna hopes to make the move without having to miss a beat. Rick’s Place is open Mon.-Fri. from 9am-4pm. McKenna said, “We could use a few more committed volunteers to be at Rick’s Place on a regular basis; from 10am-2pm would be ideal. Volunteers don’t need to be veterans. Sometimes it’s more fun if they aren’t because that can lead to broader conversations. As part of Stage II, a new building will be built off the back (on the 54th St. side) to house donations and distribution.”

Photo left: Ronie George (pictured left) is a retired art teacher from Minnehaha Academy and a regular volunteer at Rick’s Place. She teaches a drop-in art class every Monday from 10am-2pm. Veterans are welcome to participate at no cost, as well as interested neighbors. No previous art experience is needed. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Stage III is down the road. McKenna said, “Our hope is to have an on-site enterprise one day that would employ veterans and generate revenue. We don’t know yet what that will look like, but ideas are starting to come.”

McKenna is anticipating an “anthill of activity” once the new building is in full swing. A proposed schedule includes everything from Running Club to Finances 101, and Life Coaching to Car Repair.

“The VA does a fantastic job of treating veterans’ physical ailments, and they’re doing the best they can with the mental aspects of what veterans go through,” McKenna said. “What we do here is different though: at Every Third Saturday and at Rick’s Place, we walk through, and we talk through, what’s in the hearts and souls of veterans and their families. While we’re building great programming here, our deeper interest is in building great community. We think it’s a model that’s absolutely necessary but, to our knowledge, it hasn’t been done anywhere else.”

To inquire about volunteering or donating, contact jessi@everythirdsaturday.com.

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