stories

People of The Gathering - in community, feeding the hungry

People of The Gathering is a collection of work sharing the stories of volunteers, staff, board members, donors, meal guests and all who lie between. We’re pleased to introduce you to People of The Gathering and hope you enjoy reading their stories as much as we’ve enjoyed writing them.


Simon and Lenova.png

Simon & Loneva

Meal Guests

We are called to take care of the people.

Simon and Loneva were wed in 1986 and have been meal guests at The Gathering’s Dinner Program since 2012. The couple finds themselves at Christian Faith Fellowship East regularly to not only eat, but to pray for their community.

As field ministers with G4U Ministries, Simon and Loneva find themselves caring for fellow meal guests like they are family. Many guests know the couple by name and, on their own, will ask for a special prayer. At every meal, Simon & Loneva join hands and pray in silence for their neighbors.

At one point in time, Simon and Loneva experienced food and housing insecurities of their own. After overcoming these insecurities, they began to travel to countless locations for fellowship but found solace at The Gathering, for they felt called to bring their ministry to The Gathering’s space.


guillermo-gutierrez.jpg

Guillermo Guttierrez

President, Board of Directors

I was always encouraged to be myself...

Guillermo, a native of Mexico, came to the United States in 2004 as an expatriate with Kohler Co.  He moved to Sheboygan in 2006 and it was there where he met Ellen born and raised in Wisconsin, whom he married in 2011. Today, Guillermo works as a Senior Talent Development Consultant at Baird. His day-to-day work includes coaching and training his teams toward success and cultural diversity.

Guillermo’s passion for cultural diversity developed since he was young. He lived and worked in four different countries before coming to the US and becoming immersed in American culture. As a Mexican immigrant he has experienced seeing the world with different perspectives and enjoys sharing his Mexican culture with his American friends and colleagues.

When Guillermo first joined The Gathering’s Board of Directors, The Gathering was actively working to diversify its Board, and Guillermo took the opportunity to bring his talent and passion to the organization. Guillermo is currently serving as The Gathering’s Board President.


Ken Bernoksa 3.jpg
Ken Bernoksa sunrise.jpg

Kenneth

Meal Guest, Volunteer

The Gathering may have been the first meal site that I went to…it’s more of a precious space than it gets credit for.

At 25 years of age, Ken was living on Milwaukee’s streets and eating at The Gathering.  Even amidst his housing crisis, Ken felt called to volunteer, and for a year and half spent his weekdays with The Gathering’s Breakfast Program and 1-2 weekends a month serving as a Volunteer Coordinator for The Gathering’s Saturday Lunch Program. The photo above was taken by Ken during the time of his homelessness. He was greeted by the sunrise, just before he made his way to The Gathering’s Breakfast Program.

Ken (Kenneth Bernoska) was born in Illinois and raised in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  He has fond memories from his early childhood that include going on camping trips and vacations with his family, but in his teenage years he began to experience trauma and violence in the space where he was living.  This led to food and housing insecurities.  As a young adult, Ken worked to overcome this trauma and ultimately found his way to Milwaukee.

Now, at age 27, Ken continues to donate time to The Gathering.  He is currently working toward obtaining a fellowship with The Obama Foundation and has finally secured stable housing.


Jacob Slocum.JPG

Jacob

Donor, Musician

I am who I want to be.

Jacob Slocum grew up as a member of St. James Episcopal Church, a Gathering volunteer and an aspiring musician.  Twice he faced food and housing insecurities that tested him as an individual. 

“I had to rely on the love and generosity of others to get out of a hairy situation”, explained Jacob, “but neither time was long because God moved through the love of those around me.” 

As a teenager, he found refuge at St. James where he was first introduced to The Gathering’s meal program.  He was an active volunteer and felt close to The Gathering’s mission. 

In his twenties Jacob moved to Chicago to pursue his music career.  His first album was just released and he chose The Gathering to be one of the recipients of a portion of the proceeds. 

At just 29 years old, Jacob confidently shares, “I am who I want to be.” The Gathering is proud and thankful to be a part of Jacob’s journey.


Jillian.jpg

Jillian

Donor

Jillian is a student at Glenwood Elementary in Greenfield, Wisconsin.   In February, Jillian and her second grade class collected money and food items to make 125 bag lunches for The Gathering.   They wrote letters to their families and their teachers about wanting to help people in need.  They learned that people who were homeless had joys and fears and families just like they did; and that 40% of the homeless were children just like them.  Each lunch included a second grader’s personal handwritten note.


Komatsu - Donor, Volunteer

Komatsu - Donor, Volunteer

Sharing Thanks, Helping Others

On Saturday, November 18, employees of Komatsu Mining Corporation and their families served the Thanksgiving meal to over 200 guests at The Gathering’s State Street Site.  They also donated pumpkin and apple pies for the feast.  Komatsu (formerly Joy Global) has supported The Gathering’s work for twenty years.  Cathy Stagmer, Komatsu’s Manager of Social Responsibility writes, “The Gathering is one volunteer activity that always finds employees inviting their family members to join in giving back…  For some it has become a family tradition, for others it is hopefully the start of a lifelong practice of helping those in need.”  Click here for more of the story.


mke college prep.jpg

Milwaukee College Prep

Donor, Volunteer

We are grateful to share this experience with The Gathering guests.

For several years now, students at Milwaukee College Prep (MCP) have helped The Gathering with our Thanksgiving meals by baking pies for dessert. They continued the tradition this year under the tutelage of Gathering Board Member and MCP Community Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator, Maggie Broeren. At the school’s 36th Street Campus, students prepared and baked 20 pumpkin pies for The Gathering’s nearby ONG (Our Next Generation) meal site where 30% of guests are children themselves. “We are grateful to share this experience with The Gathering guests,” Maggie stated. And we are grateful for the enthusiastic participation of MCP.


YOU CAN BECOME A CHEF BY HELPING THE GATHERING MOVE TO ST. BEN'S

THE GATHERING AT ST. JAMES TO BECOME

THE GATHERING ON STATE STREET

2017 CAPITAL CAMPAIGN:  MOVE WITH THE GATHERING

 

CAPITAL CAMPAIGN GOAL:   $50,000    CAMPAIGN TIMEFRAME: January – April 2017

SUGGESTED GIVING CATEGORIES:          HOW TO DONATE:

 $10,000                 Master Chef                  Check payable to:The Gathering, 804 E. Juneau Ave.  $5,000                   Chef                                                                  Milwaukee, WI 53202        $1,000                   Sous Chef                      MC or Visa:             414-272-4122 (Gathering office)  $500                      Cook                              Online: www.thegatheringwis.org                                     $100                       Server                           Email:   soulfood@thegatheringwis.org

OVERVIEW:  Begun in 1982, The Gathering prepares and serves hot, nutritious meals to Milwaukee’s hungry and homeless (90,000-100,000 annually) through four locations; provides food support to a north side tutoring/mentoring program; and conducts the Fresh Produce Preservation Project to preserve excess donated produce for use in Gathering meals.

Now, after 35 years at St. James Episcopal Church on 8th & Wisconsin (our founding site), we are moving our downtown breakfast and Saturday lunch programs to a new location.  The St. James building is up for sale and our ability to remain there is in question.  We have, therefore, secured space at St. Ben’s Community Meal on 9th & State.  This is a win-win for our Breakfast and downtown Saturday Lunch guests, many of whom also eat dinner at St. Ben’s.  It is also an opportunity for both organizations to explore joint programming and to enhance the stewardship of our resources. 

To accomplish this move without impacting our day to day operations, we need funds specified for the anticipated costs.  By contributing to this project you will help continue to provide Milwaukee’s hungry and homeless a hot breakfast and Saturday lunch for as long as the need exists.  Target date for the move is mid-March 2017.

# OF GUESTS TO BE SERVED AT DOWNTOWN SITE IN 2017:                                          Breakfast – 48,000                                                                                                                                  Saturday Lunch – 11,000

EXPENSE ITEMS:                                                                                                                          1.   $10,000:  Physical move of major equipment, cookware, bakeware, tools, storage racks,    tables, chairs, supplies and food.                                                                                                  2.  $25,000:  Purchase of equipment to fit available space (walk-in cooler, commercial fridge, rolling and standard storage, etc.)  The Gathering cooks all meals on site, requiring substantial equipment, prep space and storage.  Because space at St. Ben’s is limited due to their own meal service, we will be sharing certain equipment, creating space for some currently owned, purchasing new equipment to fit into available space, and locating creative tools to move supplies needed daily from one area to another.                                                                                          3. $15,000: Renovation costs including construction, electrical, plumbing, signage.                  

Cookies for our Christmas Dinners-over 5,000-made by parishioners of St. James' Catholic Parish, Mukwonago

IMG_0976.JPG

Thanks to St. James Mukwonago parishioners for baking, decorating and packaging over 5,000 cookies for our Christmas dinners held at all four of The Gathering meal sites on Saturday, December 17.  They also donated oranges, tangerines, candy canes, coffee and winter outerwear.  Each guest left their particular meal site with a treat bag full of Christmas goodies. 

                Sometimes it’s the “little” things that bring the biggest smiles.   

Meet Our New Breakfast Team

The Breakfast Team:  Christopher, Nicole, and Patricia

The Breakfast Team:  Christopher, Nicole, and Patricia

In the fall of 2015 we welcomed Nicole Franklin as our new Breakfast Coordinator, Patricia Moore as our new Breakfast Cook, and Christopher Pernell as our newly assigned Security Guard. In a recent conversation the three agreed that they make a very good team and are blessed that they can make a difference in someone’s life every day at work.

Nicole: Mother of 3 daughters and one son (ages 10-19). Nicole has 20 years experience working in community organizations. She continues to work with children from Kindergarten-8th grade and their parents as Site Coordinator for two of COA’s afterschool programs. Nicole loves giving back and especially “loves the people” (our guests). Born and raised in Milwaukee (Milwaukee High School of the Arts), Nicole enjoys driving, all sorts of travel and spending time with her family.

My observation: Nicole has an amazing ability to approach any situation calmly and with reason; she is unflappable and upbeat.

Patricia: Mother of 4 daughters and grandmother of 6 (ages 2-14). Pat loves, loves, loves cooking. She has cooked professionally in the community for 27 years, and continues to cook at the St. Vincent de Paul south side dinner program. Pat appreciates how the Breakfast Program works and enjoys giving back to the community. Born in Louisiana, Pat moved to Milwaukee as a teenager (North Division High School). She enjoys spending time with her grandkids, family gatherings, and, of course, cooking.

My observation: Pat expresses joy daily in her work in The Gathering’s Breakfast kitchen; she does indeed love cooking and treasures the feedback from our guests; she is quick to smile.

Christopher: Assigned to The Gathering by Great Lakes Security. Chris was born and raised in Milwaukee (Northwest High School) and is the uncle to many nephews. What Chris likes about providing security at the Breakfast Program is that he is also helping people, putting a smile on someone’s face, calming situations that arise, simply providing a cup of coffee. He has come to feel fortunate for what he has been given. Outside of work, Chris enjoys his nephews, plays basketball, and serves as a volunteer basketball coach at COA.

My observation: Great smile; willing to help in any way possible – welcoming guests and volunteers, unloading the delivery van, handing out coffee, assisting in finding guest resources – in addition to providing security.

 In closing, the team agreed that - even though from time to time they are dragging, not quite awake (arrival time is 6:30 a.m.) or just not moving very fast - when the meal guests arrive, so does the energy. If you haven’t had a chance to see the team at work, come on down! Individuals and groups up to 3 people are welcome any Monday – Friday morning, 7:00-10:00 a.m., St. James’ Episcopal Church, 833 W. Wisconsin Avenue. Larger groups, please call The Gathering office at 414-272-4122 to schedule.