saturday meal program

The Dedication of our Leadership Volunteers

by Wyatt Massey

At a time when most of the city is sleeping in, leadership volunteers continue the Gathering’s ministry. Whether it’s team Home Fries, the Bay Leaf Bruisers, HaMM on Rye, or any one of the creatively-named cook and coordinator teams, these individuals provide a much needed service.

Cooks and coordinators are part of the reason the Gathering’s Saturday lunch is able to serve an average of 495 guests weekly at four sites. Every Saturday, volunteer cook teams prepare all of the food for the meal, followed by coordinators who facilitate the serving of the meal. These leadership volunteers go through an application and training process and commit to at least a year, although many end up sticking around a lot longer.

Vergie and Lucy at the Gathering’s Our Next Generation site

Vergie and Lucy at the Gathering’s Our Next Generation site

Vergie Bond, for example, has been a volunteer cook for 27 years at the Gathering’s north side site (Our Next Generation). Along with the King Solomon Cook Team, Vergie prepares meals every fourth Saturday of the month. 


It's about showing that you care about people. There’s such a need,Vergie says.


Lucy Evans, another member of the King Solomon Team, is inspired by the guests she meets each weekend. She enjoys stepping out of the kitchen to see people taking the time to slow down, sit and enjoy a meal together. Guests have even approached Lucy to ask if they could help out with the dishes because the food was so good.

“Those are the special interactions,” she said.

On the other side of the city, at St. James’ Episcopal Church, Jodi Martinez spends her time interacting with guests and volunteers on the serving floor. Jodi is a floor coordinator for the Saturday meal. After the cooking crew leaves for the day, Jodi directs volunteers and makes sure everything runs smoothly.

Bay Leaf Bruisers cook team prepares the meal

Bay Leaf Bruisers cook team prepares the meal

Being on the serving floor is important to Jodi. It is an opportunity to engage and make the site a welcoming place for guests. The same is true for the volunteer environment. Jodi recognizes the importance of making everyone feel part of something greater.


“I love the community.” Jodi said. “Once you get to know the other volunteers, you become a family.”


The idea of the volunteer group as family is found throughout the Gathering's meal sites. At the Gathering’s South Side site, Betsy Fryda, cook team leader for “Home Fries,” has cooked for the Gathering for five years. Her team is made up of workers from the Taste of Home magazine. Each team member is passionate about food, so the Gathering provides a unique opportunity to give back. “To be able to share you love with others is the ultimate volunteer experience,” Betsy said.

Betsy and the Home Fries cook team

Betsy and the Home Fries cook team

Betsy, Jodi, Vergie and Lucy are just four of the 104 leaders who spend their Saturday mornings serving the hungry and homeless. These dedicated leaders donated 3,238 hours valued at $70,524 in fiscal year 2013-2014. Without their commitment, energy and enthusiasm, the Saturday Meal Program would not exist.

 

Wyatt Massey is a volunteer storyteller for the Gathering. Read more of his work here.

St. James Building for Sale

View of the front of St. James Episcopal Church

View of the front of St. James Episcopal Church

If you volunteer at the Gathering’s breakfast program or the Saturday lunch located at St. James Episcopal Church, you have probably seen the “for sale sign” out front. A few months ago the St. James congregation made the very difficult decision to find a buyer for the building and secured the services of Ogden and Co. to handle the marketing. The expense of keeping up with the maintenance and repairs of this 1867 historic structure had become overwhelming. The intent of those attending St. James is to stay together as a worshipping community as long as possible and wherever that might lead.

St. James Episcopal is where the Gathering began, formed from the vision of Fr. Michael Stolpman and the Episcopal Diocese. In January of 1982, Fr. Charles Lynch, Rector (pastor) of St. James, together with the Wardens and Vestry (governing body of the church) welcomed the Gathering to the downstairs kitchen, and the rest is history. It continues to be the Gathering’s busiest site, serving 900 plus meals weekly; welcoming 20-40 volunteers six days a week – 1/3 from our guest population; offering collaborative mental health, medical and legal assistance; and housing our Fresh Produce Preservation Project. St. James also hosts the Red Door Clothing Ministry and Sundries from the Avenue, a St. James ministry distributing toiletries and other items to those who are homeless.

The Gathering has formed a committee to look at our options should the building be sold and we are asked to move. At this point in time there have been no offers, and a quick sale is not anticipated.

The Gathering’s Thanksgiving Meal

This past Saturday, November 23rd, the Gathering served a Thanksgiving brunch that consisted of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, TONS of pies (with whipped topping, of course), gravy, sweet potatoes, yams (with marshmallows and brown sugar), cranberry sauce and carrots. 590 guests were served at our three Saturday meal sites.

Thanksgiving turkey prep

Thanksgiving turkey prep

The Gathering has been so blessed to have numerous volunteers and generous individuals calling in to inquire about volunteering on Thanksgiving Day. While we appreciate the community support, the Gathering does not serve on the day of Thanksgiving (Thurs. Nov 28th). We serve ten meals every week throughout the year. On Thanksgiving Day, many of our guests take the day to be with family. In addition, there are many service organizations/churches/food pantries, etc. that serve delicious meals on this special day. So instead of repeating meals, we focus our attention on a meal the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day.

An AMAZING number of group and individual volunteers worked together to make the meal happen. Special thanks to Fox Point Lutheran Church, Immanuel Presbyterian, St. Mark’s Episcopal, Joe Bruno and more for preparing turkeys.

In addition, thanks to Southwood Glenn Elementary’s Market Day, Milwaukee College Prep, Joy Global and more for bringing amazing pies. Also SPECIAL THANKS to all of our cooks, coordinators and volunteers at the meal on Saturday. We could not have done it without you.

Program Information - FY 2012/2013

Numbers and activities listed below are for our fiscal year – July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012

Total number of meals served in Fiscal Year 2012/2013: 150,336

Hot, homemade meals are served to all who come at no cost to the recipient.

BREAKFAST - 50,179 (ave. of 200 guests/meal)

Breakfast is served Monday through Friday mornings at our downtown site, St. James’ Episcopal Church, 833 W. Wisconsin Avenue. The majority of breakfast guests are adult males; 60-70% homeless. Legal, medical and mental health services are provided on site.

DINNER - 11,694 (ave. of 118 guests/meal)

Dinner is served Monday and Wednesday late afternoon at our south side location, Christian Faith Fellowship Church East, 724 S. Layton Blvd. Dinner guests come from the surrounding neighborhood; diverse in age and ethnic background.

Youth Volunteers in the serving line at the Dinner Program

Youth Volunteers in the serving line at the Dinner Program

SATURDAY LUNCH - 26,156 (ave. of 513 guests/Saturday)

Saturday lunch is served at the above two sites and at Our Next Generation Neighborhood Center (ONGNC) , 35th & Lisbon. Guests at ONGNC are primarily African American with 20-30% children. Lunch is also provide on the 4th Saturday of the month at Mt. Carmel Lutheran church, 82nd & Center.

SHELTER MEAL PROGRAM (SMP) - 53,949 meals

The Shelter Meal Program provided three meals every day to residents of three shelters managed by Community Advocates: Women’s Refuge homeless and domestic violence shelters and Autumn West, housing for adult mentally ill. Community Advocates funded the program and the Gathering provided the staffing, food and delivery of services.

Shelter Meal Program Staff Meeting

Shelter Meal Program Staff Meeting

OUR NEXT GENERATION COLLABORATION - 8,358 meals

This tutoring/mentoring program at 35th & Lisbon – one of our Saturday Lunch sites – serves a light meal four afternoons each week to program participants of middle school and high school age. The Gathering provides the underlying support for these meals.

The Gathering's Easter Meal

On Saturday, March 30, 468 Gathering guests were served a special Easter Meal at our three Saturday lunch sites. After hours of preparing ham with pineapple, sweet potatoes, yams, assorted dessert trays and green bean casseroles, the cooks, coordinators and volunteers at the Gathering’s three Saturday meal sites were ready to do what they do best: feed the Gathering’s community!

Volunteers preparing dessert tray at St. James

Volunteers preparing dessert tray at St. James

The volunteer cooks arrived around seven in the morning to start preparing the food. There were three cook teams, one at each site. A couple of the teams had Gathering veterans who had been volunteering for decades but there were also some relatively new cooks. After the cooks prepared the food and had it all waiting to go in the warmers/ovens, the volunteer coordinators sprung into action. Coordinators make sure things are running smoothly and that all volunteers from the serving group have a role during the meal.

Volunteer Cooks preparing green bean casserole at the South Side
Volunteer Cooks preparing green bean casserole at the South Side

One such coordinator is Ellie Moseley. Ellie has been coordinating with the Gathering for over fifteen years along with her husband, Harry. Ellie and Harry got involved when they moved to Milwaukee. They used to volunteer at a soup kitchen in Indianapolis and they wanted to find another opportunity to do similar work. Ellie explained that one of her favorite parts of the Gathering is getting to interact with the guests. “Everyone is so nice. There is one woman who comes regularly and wraps her arms around me and gives me a big hug.” Together, guests and volunteers can create an encouraging sense of community at the Gathering.

Volunteers "suit up" at the South Side Site
Volunteers "suit up" at the South Side Site

Serving group volunteers begin showing up around 9:45, “suit up” with gloves, aprons, hats/hair nets, and set about wrapping silverware, pouring drinks, buttering bread, making salad, preparing dessert trays, and setting places for the guests. Thanks to Greater Spring Hill, St. Boniface and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Grafton, the Gathering’s Easter meals ran smoothly with the help of 45 total volunteers! After all the preparation the meal was served from 11:30 to 12:30. The Gathering was able to serve 468 guests, 46 of whom were children.  Included in the Easter meal were treat bags donated by the different volunteer groups.

Beautiful Easter treat bags, thanks St. Boniface!
Beautiful Easter treat bags, thanks St. Boniface!

Thanks to the commitment of 8 cooks, 8 coordinators, 45 volunteers and a community of guests, the Easter meal was a big success. The meal was a special experience with guests eating and laughing side by side. Ellie explained the importance of this holiday fellowship when she said, “Any holiday is more elaborate, a bigger crowd. We work to make it as joyful as possible. We are really here to feed people’s spirits, not just their bodies.”