Sullivan Honors Alaskan of the Week: Lisa Sauder

WASHINGTON, DC –  U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) recognized Lisa Sauder, the Executive Director of Bean's Café in Anchorage, for her continued advocacy and work on behalf of the hungry and homeless. Lisa was honored as part of Senator Sullivan’s “Alaskan of the Week” series.

Alaska of the Week Lisa Sauder

Sullivan Honoring Lisa Sauder as Alaskan of the Week (Click image or here to watch, click here to download).

SENATE FLOOR TRIBUTE TO LISA SAUDER – (U.S. Senate – October 10, 2018)

Mr. President, as the Presiding Officer knows, I have been coming down here nearly every week--usually Wednesday or Thursday--for the last 2 years to talk about somebody who is making a big difference in my State, the great State of Alaska. I call this person our Alaskan of the Week.

Most of the people who visit Alaska do so in the summer--I was honored the Presiding Officer and his family came up to visit this summer--and we know that is understandable, to come up when the Sun is high in the sky, but this time of year is truly magnificent in my great State. To borrow a phrase that is no doubt familiar to many, including some of the pages: Winter is coming. Winter is coming.

Every day, the Sun comes up later and sets earlier. Snow is already on the ground in some places in Alaska. In some places in the State, the mountains are dusted--termination dust, we call it--and that dust is quickly turning into deep snow and making its way down the mountains. It will not be long before it spreads out all throughout our communities in Anchorage and other cities. The whole State is crackling with energy to get ready for the long winter, like we do every year.

For some, though--particularly for the hungry and the homeless--winter in Alaska can be incredibly difficult and incredibly challenging. Actually, as we all know here, for the hungry and the homeless any time of the year can be incredibly difficult and challenging.

In Anchorage, there is a place where everyone, no matter who you are, is greeted with dignity, respect, and a hot meal. The place is called Bean's Cafe, and the person who makes sure it all happens and comes together is Lisa Sauder, the executive director of Bean's Cafe, and Lisa is our Alaskan of the Week.

Let me tell you a little bit about Lisa. She was born in Anchorage and moved to the west coast with her parents when she was a young teenager. When she graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in communications and political science, she was on her way back home to Alaska. ``Alaska always calls you when you leave it,'' she said. ``It's always the place that feels most like home.''

She worked at a local bank and the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Center, where she was able to travel all around the country to talk people into visiting our great State, particularly in the off seasons like fall, like now. Then her husband's job took them to the east coast, where they stayed for some time, but, once again, Alaska beckoned, and they returned.

Shortly after coming back home again, Lisa saw an ad to help run Bean's Cafe, and she knew she had to go for it. She knew that passion was in her heart. The fact that it is completely local and completely community supported was a huge lure to her, she said but so was helping and working with the homeless throughout the State.

Lisa's uncle, for example, was a Vietnam veteran with mental health challenges after serving in Vietnam. For decades, he lived on the streets in Seattle. She saw the pain that her uncle's homelessness caused her mom and the rest of the family, and of course her uncle, but then he got help at a place like Bean's Cafe, and she also saw the positive impact that not only had on her uncle but the entire family, the entire community.

Bean's is an Anchorage institution. It serves breakfast and lunch every day--about 950 meals a day--to the hungry and the homeless. This requires the work of about 120 volunteers a day. People from all across the community come to help out. On any given day, you will see a business executive, maybe a pastor, a construction worker, politicians--so many, from all walks of life--serving food to the homeless and hungry. We have also seen the recipients of that generosity of food volunteering themselves, all of them--such a supportive community--working together to help one another.

Bean's is so much more than a place for a meal. It serves as a mailing address for their clients. It is a place where you can call a loved one, a place to get some dry socks, a hat and a coat, warm clothing for the cold winter. You can get help with your VA benefits. You can get help finding a job or it is a place to get out from the cold for a few hours.

Lisa said:

Oftentimes, the day that someone walks into Bean's Cafe is the worst day of that person's life. And we're there to greet them with compassion and respect.

Lisa has also expanded the program to include a very popular program now in Anchorage called Children's Lunchbox, which provides after-school and weekend meals for children. All told, between the meals served at Bean's and for the Children's Lunchbox, under Lisa's guidance, leadership, and passion, more than 700,000 meals were served last year.

Lisa loves her job. She loves how supportive the community is. She loves watching people grow and helping them get the help they need--and then their coming back to help others. She said:

We're all very fortunate here. We get to help people, [which is a passion]. Not everybody can say that.

Lisa's work extends far beyond Bean's Cafe and the Children's Lunchbox. She is also very involved in Alaska's recovery community--recovery from addiction, particularly in the past few years.

Anchorage, AK, like the rest of the community, isn't immune to what is happening all across the country with regard to the opioid and heroin crisis. The good news is, we are working in the Senate and in the House on this issue. We just passed a bill, a very important bill, that will help States and communities address this, but we have a long way to go.

Too many young people--people of all ages--are being lost to us because of this horrible epidemic, and, unfortunately and very tragically, Lisa's son

Tucker, 23 years old, was one of those we lost. She has put the pain--the deep pain of losing her son--to good work. She has turned into a fierce advocate for those suffering from addiction. She talks about Tucker often, wanting people to know that this can happen to anyone. That is why we need to continue to focus.

Through her work and the work of so many advocates across the State, people are finally getting the help they need. Lisa said:

The peer mentorship that is going on right now is saving lives. So much progress has been made. There are so many people who have really helped to shine a light on the issue.

Lisa is such a force for good in my State. She has tenacity, grit, courage, and a huge heart. She is doing so many things. For that, we want to thank Lisa for all she is doing.

Congratulations on being our Alaskan of the Week.

I yield the floor.