It’s a number that speaks to Dickinson’s Tana Johnson. It’s also a number that appears to her in the most unexpected places and ways.
“My dad, Jim Bosch, was born in 1937. He retired from the North Dakota National Guard after 37 years of service. When he passed away, his hospital room number ended with 37. He’s buried at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Mandan, and his grave marker includes the number 37,” explains Tana. “My dad passed away in January 2012. In the years since then, the number 37 has popped out at me all over the place. It comes to me literally on a daily basis. I live in District 37. The year he passed, it was a very mild January and every morning when I got into my car, the thermometer said 37-degrees. Randomly, on a taxi ride with a co-worker in Arizona, I looked out the window and saw a brick building with the numbers 3737 on it.”
Tana is sure it’s no coincidence.
“I grew up Catholic and I’ve always considered myself a spiritual person, but it wasn’t until after my dad passed and I started my job as a homeless case manager at Badlands Human Services that I really became spiritually guided.
“I’ve always looked for ways to help and empower people,” she explains. “I knew there was one soup kitchen every Thursday in Dickinson, but I wanted to do something more than just feed the hungry. Food of course is one of the essential elements we need to live, but I wanted to incorporate the soul part of it and bring the community together.”
Enter Angel 37 Kitchen.
“After thinking about this for two years, I started writing a mission statement in July and on November 8, we served our first meal.”
Angel 37 Kitchen serves a free meal every Tuesday at Queen of Peace Church, a place that is near and dear to Tana’s heart.
“I wanted to honor my dad in a way that was meaningful,” says Tana. “I grew up in Queen of Peace. Mom and Dad have been parish members since the church was built in the 1970s. My parents instilled in me a willingness to open yourself to other people. I feel I am called to do this. I feel like this is my legacy.”
Tana has worked hard to make her soup kitchen more than just a place where people go to eat. She wants Angel 37 Kitchen to be a place where people from all walks of life go to nourish their body and their soul.
“Yes there are people who need food who can’t afford it or those who just want a good home-cooked meal. There are also those who seclude themselves because of depression, anxiety, or mental health illness. We want them to come to Angel 37. We also want the mom who has had a rough day to bring her family to Angel 37 for supper. We want to take the stress off for one meal. We want them to meet new people, to network, to have fellowship. I make sure my Angel 37 playlist of music is ready to go. That helps set the mood and helps people relax and enjoy themselves.
“I’ve had people tell me they’d love to come, but they don’t feel like they should because they can afford groceries, or they can afford to go out to a restaurant. I tell them to come anyway. I want people from all walks of life to be at Angel 37. They could offer a job to someone, or give the gift of conversation. I tell them that by being there they might be the gift that someone else needs at that moment in life, or vice versa.”
The response to Angel 37 Kitchen has been greater than Tana ever imagined.
“When I first put it on Facebook what I was doing, people came out of the woodwork wanting to know how they could help. People I didn’t even know were messaging me. Businesses emailed me asking how they could help. It’s been overwhelming and so cool.”
Tana started asking for sponsorships and volunteers. She’s got a list of people who want to help.
“Families are volunteering together. Parents have told me they’re craving something like this. They want their children to volunteer and to be involved in the community.”
Even Tana’s 13-year-old daughter, Jenna, has gotten involved. Jenna leads the Angel Kid Korner where children can play while their parents enjoy their meal. But perhaps the most surprising group of volunteers, was a group of five people in recovery from addiction.
“I always introduce the sponsors and the cooks before each meal. When I asked this group how they wanted to be introduced, they wanted to be called recovering addicts. There was no shame. So I did. And everyone clapped when I introduced them as recovering addicts. That says a lot about our community. There was no judgement.
“Angel 37 Kitchen is magical. Every week something magical happens. You never know who is going to show up, but it is always a blessing.”
Tana says she hopes her dad is proud of what she’s doing. She feels his presence, and each week, when she decorates the space, she includes a picture of her dad, her very own Angel 37.
Tana is always looking for volunteers and sponsors. Contact her via Angel 37 on Facebook, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call or text her at 701-290-7559.
To see more photos of Tana, click here for a gallery by Photos by Jacy.