I’ll never forget a meeting I had with Ken and his late wife, Judy, in 2016 to discuss the purchase of two acres adjacent to our property to the north. I explained the vision of creating a one-stop resource center where we could connect people to resources so they could move forward. The giveaway store would become a thrift store open to all, with high-quality items and affordable prices. That concept resonated with them because as former business owners, they believed people would value things more if they had to pay for them. And it would help NKC become self-sustaining, with all proceeds being put back into programs. They were forward-thinking, asking that we maximize our footprint and build for the future. I didn’t even have a blueprint to show them; it was just a concept and a dream.
Ken and Judy kickstarted our $3 million dollar capital campaign for the new 12,400 square foot addition and were among our biggest cheerleaders. They believed in us all the way. Several years after Judy died, Ken met and married a wonderful woman, Pat Brewer, who embraced the NKC mission as well. Both Ken and Pat get what we’re doing here – helping with basic needs while empowering people to economic independence. They are deeply concerned about the lack of affordable housing and have encouraged me to increase wages for our staff, not just to retain them but because it’s the right thing to do. They were supportive of implementing a retirement plan for our employees, recognizing that dedicated, skilled people are our best asset. They love people. They champion families, especially those who haven’t experienced the same opportunities as they’ve had.
When the construction was complete, I asked Ken if I could name a part of the new wing after him and he declined because he’s so humble. But his wife, Pat, said, ‘Let’s name the educational classrooms and teaching kitchen in memory of Judy.’ It was a beautiful, tearful moment and so honoring of his late wife. I just love them.”
~ Claire Guisfredi
Executive Director of North Kent Connect