The founder of a local homeless shelter has been recognized for her work.

Sister Vickie Perkins was the recipient of the annual Athena Award during a luncheon Tuesday at the Riverfront Community Center.

Perkins becomes the 33rd recipient of the Athena Award, which was started by the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Division in 1986 to honor women who make a difference in the community.

“I’ve only been here four years, but I have fallen in love with Leavenworth,” said Perkins.

A lifelong educator, Perkins came to Leavenworth in 2014 from Kansas City and immediately began a needs-based assessment of the local area. She discovered that there was no central clearinghouse of information for people in need and that there was a lack of public transportation.

With the help of her congregation from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth and other local faith communities, she opened Welcome Central to help people with such things as applying for identification, completing disability forms and scheduling transportation.

Soon she began to turn her focus to the homeless population in the area. She brought together members of more than 30 local churches of various faiths to bring about the Leavenworth Interfaith Community of Hope, which opened in September 2017.

The Leavenworth Interfaith Community of Hope, 311 Kiowa St., houses the Interfaith Shelter of Hope, Welcome Central and a day center where homeless people can come in out of the weather, have a snack, do crafts, have fellowship or get counseling.

The facility is managed with the help of more than 70 volunteers each week.

The guest speaker at the luncheon was Dr. Barbara Ballard, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives and the associate director of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.

She has served in several leadership positions at KU and teaches in the School of Education.

Ballard has prior history with the Athena Award. She was the 2016 recipient of the award from the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

Ballard encouraged women to set high goals.

“A woman can do it as well as a man,” she said.