st james church

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.

A Farewell Letter from MITZI AND BILL ROY

Mitzi & Bill Roy were leadership volunteers with the Gathering for 16 years. They recently moved to northern Wisconsin to be nearer their children and grandchildren. Here is Mitzi’s farewell letter.

Bill and Mitzi at the Gathering's 2012 volunteer event

Bill and Mitzi at the Gathering's 2012 volunteer event

While Bill and I had volunteered with the Christ Church (Whitefish Bay) groups that went down to the Gathering many times since the Gathering began in 1982, I had not become more deeply involved until 1996 when I had lunch with Michelle Mooney (then Executive Director), after retiring from my Financial Planning practice. She suggested that I might enjoy Coordinating on Saturdays at the Gathering. I was quickly “hooked” and corralled Bill to come along with me. We enjoyed working with the different volunteer groups and found the resilience of the guests inspiring.We coordinated at the Southside site for 16 years.

In 2008 George Neureuther asked us if we would be willing to coordinate at the St. James breakfast program so he could have a day off. While this was a very different experience from the lunch program at the Southside site, we found we enjoyed that immensely as well. Moses, Cary and the guests are all very special and it was a privilege to work with them.

Finally we ventured into the Gathering’s new program with Community Advocates (Shelter Meal Program) and cooked one afternoon a week with Twyla and Kim (and later Kirk) for a little over a year. While it was an entirely different experience, we learned so much and enjoyed working with them so much that we looked forward to our afternoon with them each week.

I also served on the Board of Directors for 9 years. The Gathering Board is an amazing group of people and probably the best Board I ever worked with.

I think what we will miss most about the Gathering is the guests. They are a constant reminder of how way too many people in the world live, and their ability to persevere in the face of so many obstacles is truly inspirational. I feel that the Gathering’s work says that no one is disposable and treats all the guests accordingly.

As we look for new challenges and opportunities in Hudson, WI, we will be looking for something that will bring us as much joy and affirmation as our years with the Gathering have, and give thanks for all the opportunities the Gathering has given us to live out our ministry for the last 16 years.