NEW BUFFALO — The group that gathered in the lobby of the New Buffalo Township Library on Aug. 1 planned a special tribute and thank you to Jackie Shen for her many contributions to and support of the library.
It didn’t last long. In her typical fashion, Shen said she didn’t need thanks because she loved the library and then she immediately launched into her next project to benefit the library: a Sept. 29 dinner featuring Thomas Jefferson’s favorite wines.
The Aug. 1 group presented Shen with a plaque to be mounted on the library’s Donor Wall, inscribed: In Appreciation of Jackie Shen, Jackie’s Café, Dedicated and Enthusiastic Supporter of the Library, With Gratitude from the Library Board and FOL.
The presentation was made by New Buffalo Township Library Board President Sandy Sporleder and Friends of New Buffalo Library President Loretta Friend. Shen quickly snapped her plaque in place on the wall reserved for major donors to the library.
“It’s amazing the for one person the support she gives to the library and the community. She uses the library, supports it and is a great patron who consistently gives back,” said Library Director Julie Grynwich.
Over the years, Shen has contributed proceeds from her fudge sales to help fund give iPad and Kindle giveaways and training for senior citizens. She also was the local chef to lead off the FOL’s new Chef Night series, raising a record $ 9,000. Her contributions to the library also help it grow its book collection, one of her main interests. Shen adds a magic touch with her ability to attract matching funds from other community members.
“Jackie is constantly looking for ways to help us, whether it’s money she raised from selling her fudge, always donating food for an event or buying another one of our memorial bricks. We thought it was time to say thank you to her and show our appreciation for all she has given us,” said Arlene Urquhart who oversaw the FOL’s brick fundraiser when the new library was built in 2014.
Urquhart received enthusiastic support when she brought the idea to Arnie Feinberg, who oversaw the library’s major donor wall and recommended honoring Jackie by giving her the plaque. The boards of the library and the FOL agreed.
“I love the library. I come here every Tuesday on my day off and catch up on my reading of all the magazines. The atmosphere is so wonderful and the staff is so friendly and helpful,” Shen said, adding that her normal daily reading time is between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m., before her 6 p.m. bedtime.
Shen starts her day at 1 a.m. to get her baking done when no one else is around so she doesn’t get distracted and burn things.
In six years, Shen and her café at 801 W. Buffalo St. have become New Buffalo favorites. She arrived in New Buffalo in 2013 as the chef for Stray Dog when it reopened after its 2012 fire. Shen said she fell in love with New Buffalo and soon bought a home and opened her own place in the spring of 2014. Shen originally came to America from Hong Kong to study hotel and restaurant management at the University of Houston, where she earned a bachelor’s degree. She began waitressing in Chicago during the summer and eventually worked as front-of-the house manager at the Ritz Carlton and the Hyatt and then other high-end Chicago restaurants before opening her own place, Jackie’s in Lincoln Park, for 13 years.