People That Make The Gathering: Ed Kowach

 Ed pictured at the Gathering's south side dinner site

Ed pictured at the Gathering's south side dinner site

If you’ve spent any time around the Gathering’s sites recently, you probably know Ed. Ed Kowach has been involved with the Gathering for the past thirteen years. Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ed to hear how he got involved.

About fifteen years ago, Ed became unemployed and homeless. He stayed in a shelter for two years. Life at a crowded shelter was overwhelming. To combat the difficulties, Ed stayed busy.

“I used to get up bright and early because I liked to get out and about. At that time, The Gathering was a means and a way for me to make sure I had something to eat. I was new to being homeless and not very knowledgeable about other programs, until I got to know people.”

One of the people that Ed got to know was Lee Easter. Lee was a cook with the Gathering for many years before Ed came into the picture. “Lee adopted me, he was like a stepfather to me” explained Ed. Lee showed Ed the ropes, helped him make connections and even helped Ed find an apartment to live in. He has been housed ever since. With the guidance of Lee, other volunteers and the Gathering staff, Ed began volunteering about three times a week at the Gathering’s St. James Site. He soon graduated to volunteering almost six times a week.

At the time, Ed also volunteered with a meals-on-wheels program and St. Ben’s meal program. With 30+ years experience working in the food industry, Ed makes a great addition to any meal program. Plus, he is no stranger to hard work. Ed has been seen cooking, cleaning tables and chairs, making sure people get drink refills, helping with deliveries, etc. He once helped make scrambled eggs for 150+ people on a scorching hot summer day.

Ed is now a Gathering staff member, working as a cook and security guard at the Gathering’s south side site. All of the volunteers and staff who have worked with Ed know that he is a valuable asset, and Ed feels the same way about them. 

“My favorite part has been knowing a lot of the volunteers over the years. That’s been real enjoyable. You can’t imagine the number of groups and volunteers that have come. I’ve got to know them all well. I think I am a safe, familiar face who knows how to do the job.”

Ed’s work with the Gathering over the years made him a recipient of the George Greene Award, given for exceptional service by a guest turned volunteer. 

“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you’re getting recognized for giving something back, doing something for the community. It makes me proud. That’s why I continue on.”