Karen Lamb ’83 named recipient of Paul Kersenbrock Humanitarian Award
Karen Hochstetler Lamb ’83, knew she was a Tiger the moment she set foot on Doane’s campus for the first time in May 1979.
“I remember how I felt when I saw the campus for the first time, like it was a place where I could be who I wanted to be,” she says. “And, as they say, the rest is history.”
As Karen looks back on that history, she remembers Doane teaching her many things.
“I learned to work hard for what I want, I learned to speak out about things I feel are important, and I learned to appreciate and respect people who are different from me,” she says. “I truly feel that my time at Doane helped shape me into the person I am today, and for that I am thankful.”
At Doane, Karen was a member of Delta Chi Upsilon sorority and “was very involved” at Doane.
After graduation, Karen worked in public relations for a nonprofit, managed a restaurant, was a branch supervisor for a savings and loan bank, and a placement coordinator for a temp agency before landing in the securities and insurance field for 15 years. In 2006 she made a midlife decision to go into ministry, becoming a licenced local pastor in the United Methodist Church. She has served churches in Greenwood, Alvo, Pleasant Dale and Denton, and currently serves churches in Douglass and Burr.
While working as a pastor Karen started a catering business, and in 2014 she opened Lulu’s on N, a walk-up eatery in downtown Lincoln with one very special distinction: if you’re hungry, you can have a meal. Whatever you want, whether you can afford it or not, no questions asked, no judgment given, pay what you can, including nothing. Karen feeds the hungry and homeless in Lincoln, giving them the choice of anything on her menu. That’s important to her.
“I’ve always been interested in feeding people,” Karen told the Lincoln Journal Star earlier this year. “I have a hard time saying no. Friday, I fed more homeless people than paying customers.”
She says it’s often hard to come up with enough money to serve the free meals. She’s had to make several public pleas for extra funds, netting a little each time. It costs $5 per ticket for a free meal, an irony Karen understands all too well. She’ll keep serving people even if the money runs out, for as long as she can. It’s in her upbringing to share.
Her father was raised Mennonite. A full-time plumber and part-time farmer, he grew three rows of sweet corn along the road and let anyone who wanted some pick their fill. He hunted but Karen’s mother wouldn’t cook venison, so he gave it all away. Karen keeps this family spirit of giving alive with her free meals on N Street in downtown Lincoln.
She has designs for the future. She’s in the process of turning Lulu’s into a nonprofit and trying to perfect the pay-what-you-can business model. She would like to start a job training program for people who need a little extra support and an avenue into the working world.
“I want to talk to other restaurant owners, find out what their needs are,” she told the Journal Star.
Because of her efforts to feed the hungry and aid those in need, Karen Lamb embodies the spirit of the Paul Kersenbrock Humanitarian Award, and is a true Tiger worth of distinction.
She has been married to Bob Lamb for 29 years. They have three daughters, three sons-in-law and two grandchildren.