From Humble Beginnings to a Vital Community Asset

Long-time South Milwaukee resident Kathleen Murphy was the driving force that started South Milwaukee Human Concerns (SMHC). In 1972 Murphy and a small group of other volunteers set up a modest emergency food and clothing bank in dedicated space in the former St. John’s Catholic Church at 801 Marquette Avenue (now a parking lot for Divine Mercy Catholic Church).  

Murphy was a registered nurse who met her husband (the late Dr. George Murphy) in London where both served in the U.S. Army during World War II. She died in 2013 at the age of 92 and directed memorials to SMHC.

SMHC achieved non-profit 501(c)3 status on June 5, 1973, recognized as a “charitable-educational-religious” organization. SMHC continues as a non-profit, not taxpayer funded organization. It has had four locations throughout its more than 40-year history. In addition to the original site, SMHC has also been located at:

  • Northwest corner of 12th and Milwaukee Avenue, a former pharmacy and alteration shop (late 1980s through early 1990s)
  • Northeast corner of 13th and Milwaukee Avenue, a former religious bookstore (early 1990s through 1997)
  • Its present location at 1029 Milwaukee Avenue (since 1998), a former Woolworth’s variety store and later the records storage facility for Bucyrus Erie (now Caterpillar).

A caring place accessed in time of need, SMHC has provided many thousands of South Milwaukee residents with help and hope, providing a pathway to self-sufficiency.


Location: 1029 Milwaukee Avenue, South Milwaukee, WI 53172