If you go
What: Fort Wayne Chapter of the U.S. Military Vets Motorcycle Club sponsoring its fourth annual Wounded Warrior Benefit Ride and Party
When: Ride begins at 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, 6527 E. State Blvd.
Cost: $10 a bike and $5 a passenger
Details: The ride will go for about 50 miles. There will be bands, door prizes and a silent auction. Proceeds support Wounded Warriors with “invisible wounds” and the Shepherd’s House, a transitional facility for homeless vets, which needs a new kitchen.
FORT WAYNE — Halfway down the wooden steps where the ceiling makes you duck your head, you catch the whiffs of ground beef and sausage cooking.
It’s nearly 4 p.m., an hour or two before dinner, and you’re being led by a blond woman with a big smile.
“So, you want to see the dungeon?” she says.
This is not as ominous as it seems.
Barb Cox, the co-founder of the Shepherd’s House, a refuge for homeless veterans, is more than happy to show off the Tennessee Avenue facility’s kitchen.
And she hopes a fundraiser and benefit ride this weekend at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, sponsored by the U.S. Military Vets Motorcycle Club, will help her get rid of it.
“This is where we make dinner for up to 50 people every single day,” Cox says, motioning toward a small 10-by-12-foot room in the bowels of the home.
The current kitchen is right next to a laundry room, where the only sink is, and has a typical four-burner stove like you’d find in any other home.
Counter-space is limited. Refrigerator space is limited. Storage space is limited. Washing dishes is a nightmare.
Those who stay there almost have to eat in shifts, as there are only enough tables and chairs in the dining area just off the kitchen to seat several at a time.
“This used to be a hospital,” Cox says. “When this was built 160 years ago, it wasn’t meant to be a home. We had to do what we did.”
Cox’s dream, though, is to add a new kitchen onto the home.
Shepherd’s House already has everything that needs to go inside, thanks to contributions from Grace Gathering Church and Community Harvest Food Bank.
There’s a nine-foot-long commercial dishwasher that completely sanitizes dishes. There is a commercial stove. There are tables and chairs – really nice ones, Cox says – that seat roughly 60 people, so everyone in the home can eat together.
She just needs a place to put them.
“We need the walls,” Cox says.
Those, of course, require money: to the tune of $350,000, to be exact, according to Cox.
Through a series of other fundraisers and motorcycle benefits this summer, Shepherd’s House is about $150,000 away from getting the new kitchen.
Saturday, the U.S. Military Vets Motorcycle Club’s fourth annual Wounded Warrior Benefit Ride and Party will help bring in at least some of that money.
Festivities begin at 10 a.m. at Wrigley Field by the Georgetown Shopping Center and include several bands, door prizes and a silent auction.
The motorcycle ride will be 50 miles, and it costs $10 a bike and $5 a passenger.
The kitchen is just the latest project surrounding the Shepherd’s House that Cox has thrown herself into.
She founded the home with her husband, Lonnie Cox, in 1998.
Back then, the couple had given up a lifestyle they weren’t proud of, Barb Cox said.
They owned bars and used drugs, but one day Lonnie came home from church and said the Lord wanted him to build a house for veterans.
Barb jumped on board, she said.
Since then, she has been instrumental in getting the home a serenity garden, which members of the home use for drug counseling meetings.
She and others pushed hard to keep a bar from opening right next door to the home and also raised funds to build a suite several years ago.
So, Cox knows how to get money to make things happen for the home.
And the new kitchen is something she fully expects to be built.
“It’ll happen,” she says.
Hopefully, Saturday’s fundraiser will play a big role in making her new dream into a reality.