volunteers

2016 INSPIRE BY EXAMPLE TEAM AWARD WINNER

The Gathering’s 25+ Years Saturday Lunch Leadership Team

GATHERING VOLUNTEERS ARE AWARDED  THE 2016 INSPIRE BY EXAMPLE TEAM AWARD
This year’s winner of the Nonprofit Center’s 2016 Inspire by Example Team Award is The Gathering’s 25+ Years Saturday Lunch Leadership Team.  These Gathering volunteers have consistently, for 25 years or more, cooked or coordinated the meal at one of our Saturday Lunch sites on at least a monthly basis.  Leadership volunteers perform jobs that would otherwise be done by paid staff.
The 25+ Saturday Lunch Leadership Team includes:
Four Saturday Cooking Crews:                                                                                                       St. Anne’s                                                                                                                                           King Solomon’s/Progressive Baptist                                                                                                  Bay Leaf Bruisers
 All Saints Cathedral  
       
                                                                                                     Between the four of them, these volunteer crews have cooked over 1,000 times – nearly 3 years of Saturdays; an estimated 204,800 meals; 3,200 hours of service.  All Gathering meals are cooked from scratch at each meal site.  The Gathering provides the equipment, supplies, food and menus.  The volunteer cooking crews provide the culinary expertise, creativity, commitment and passion.


Four Saturday Lunch Coordinators:                                                                                               Rick Thickens                                                                                                                                  Mary Thickens                                                                                                                                   Lisa Murray                                                                                                                                      Gregg Weirauch                                                                                                                          These coordinators have guided volunteer groups over 880 times – over 2 ½ years of Saturdays; 4,400 plus hours of service.  They are responsible for the entire meal program from set up to instructing and supervising the volunteer serving group to cleaning up and securing the meal site.  They are also responsible for creating and maintaining the atmosphere of hospitality essential to this work.


Here is the full list of all 2016 Inspire by Example Award winners:
Adult Award:  Jim Stanke; nominated by Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity
Youth Award:  J’Korevia Lawson; nominated by City on a Hill
Business Award:  GE Healthcare
Team Award:   25+ Years Saturday Lunch Leadership Team; nominated by The Gathering
Wile Volunteer Management Award:  Ana Kleppin; nominated by IndependenceFirst
Swigart Board Leadership Award:  Eric Isbister; nominated by Beyond Vision    
Award Winners will be recognized on April 7 at the Nonprofit Center’s 2016 Volunteer Celebration luncheon to be held at the Italian Community Center.  
WAY TO GO TEAM!!!

 

2015 Volunteer Award Recipients

INDIVIDUAL VOLUNTEER AWARDS

The GEORGE GREENE AWARD for exceptional service by a guest turned volunteer is named after founder and long time Gathering Board President. The 2014 Award was presented to Ray Pryor, a faithful Breakfast Program volunteer. Ray could not be present at the event as he recently became employed as a truck driver.

Breakfast coordinator, Angela, presents Ray with the George Greene Award

Breakfast coordinator, Angela, presents Ray with the George Greene Award

The following individual volunteers reached SERVICE MILESTONES in 2014 for number of years of continuous volunteering:

25 years – (Saturday Cooks) Vergie Bond, Toby Carney, Nick Eusch, Joe Graf, John Keene, Lee Klugiewicz, Roger Kocher, Tom Nabke, Maria Phelps, Chuck Thimmesch, Dean Thome, and Judy Young; (Breakfast Volunteer) Mary Rockstad; (Saturday Cooks & Coordinators) Shari Egan, Dorothy Evans; 10 years – (Saturday Coordinators) Harry Ansley, MaryBeth Ansley, Cheryl Ganske, Harvey Ganske, Marie Hoven; (Breakfast Volunteer) Deacon Ned Howe; (Saturday Cook) Tom McGinn; 7 years – (Saturday Coordinator) Roger Carroll; (Saturday Cooks) Michelle DaCosta, Linda Cesario, Roger Dickinson, Karen Meunier, Mark Meunier, Richard Thickens, Jason Thurow; 5 years – (Saturday Coordinators) Joe Kaja, Kris Ochocki; 3 years – (Saturday Cooks) Paul Acker, Sue Acker, Betsy Fryda, Amy Fryman, Nick Hirsch, Nick Hirsch, Lisa Hirsch, Regina Hirsch, Rita Hirsch, Erin Puariea, Coco Rodriguez, Millie Tillman; (Saturday Coordinators) Kelly Boettcher, Kunal Kapoor; (Saturday Cook and Coordinator) Sherry Walker

Volunteers played picnic games like Bags. For some, it was their first time! 

Volunteers played picnic games like Bags. For some, it was their first time! 

GROUP AWARDS

The following groups reached SERVICE MILESTONES in 2014 for number of times volunteering:

350x – Marquette University High School; 175x – Emmanuel Community United Methodist Church; 150x – Thomas More High School; 125x – Slinger High School; 85x – North Shore Presbyterian Church; 75x – Youthworks; 50x – Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, St. Stephen the Martyr Lutheran Church; 35x – East Troy HS NHS, Hillside Community Church, Northwestern Mutual, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church; 25x – Mt. Calvary Lutheran School Hope Club, 15x: God’s Work Our Hands, Slinger High School Skills USA; 10x – Associated Bank, Casa Romero Center, Christ UMC, Faith UCC-Slinger, Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Manpower, Salem UCC, St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, St. Monica, Ulster Project.

Matthew, breakfast volunteer, excitedly accepts the Goodwill Volunteers’ Friend of The Gathering Award

Matthew, breakfast volunteer, excitedly accepts the Goodwill Volunteers’ Friend of The Gathering Award

FRIENDS OF THE GATHERING AWARDS

Given to agencies, groups or individuals who have demonstrated exceptional compassion and dedication to The Gathering itself or to those we serve:

Jim Ardis and Dennis Stokhaug (Retired Gathering Operations Managers); Goodwill Volunteers (weekly breakfast volunteers); Duane Drzadinski and Compost Express (Fresh Produce Preservation Project collaborator); UW-Milwaukee Center for Community-Based Learning Leadership and Research & Marquette Midnight Run (weekly student volunteers); Wauwatosa Avenue United Methodist Church (monthly muffin donations); St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (ongoing in-kind, monetary and volunteer support); Suzanne Foster and St. James’ Congregation – Mukwonago (thousands of homemade Christmas cookies and treats)

Volunteers enjoyed picnic fare

Volunteers enjoyed picnic fare

FRESH PRODUCE PRESERVATION AWARDS

Given to individual volunteers who have reached milestones with the Fresh Produce Preservation Project:
35x – Eileen Duffey; 10x – Jill Kortebein and Lisa Kortebein

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.

Curtis: Finding the Place the Lord Had Made

by Wyatt Massey

Curtis lending a helping hand in the Gathering kitchen

Curtis lending a helping hand in the Gathering kitchen

The song of blessing Curtis sings before each meal has a special meaning in his own journey from the streets to loving himself. Each morning at the Gathering, before the doors open to meal guests and the room is filled with laughs and conversation, a volunteer is asked to give an opening prayer.

If you are lucky, Curtis will raise his hand and volunteer. He will stand up and, with a voice fueled by faith, sing The Lord Has Made a Place For Me. The song blesses the meal, the volunteers and each guest. Beyond that though, Curtis knows the song has special meaning to his own story.


“When I sing that song,” he says, gesturing to the kitchen and dining area of the Gathering, “This is what I’m talking about. Right here.”


Curtis first came to the Gathering in 1993. He was living on the street, alongside his brother. At the time, the meal program offered a warm place to stay and a meal without questions. It was a consistent refuge compared to life on the street. A time of his life Curtis called “awful,” noting the uncertainty of each night.

“You didn’t know where you were going to lay down,” Curtis said. “Wondering where you were going to go, where you were going to be.”

Curtis lived on the street, on and off, for six years. The longest he stayed without shelter was a year and a half. Despite having a consistent paycheck, a drug habit kept him without decent savings. More than that, Curtis said it was a lack of self-respect that kept him on the streets.


“I didn’t care about myself, but I’m changed now. I’ve got a better understanding of me and I’ve started loving myself again.”


Part of that change included volunteering. After his first meal at the Gathering, Curtis approached Josephine, the program coordinator, and asked if he could volunteer. She told him he could start immediately.

Volunteering also helped Curtis find housing. One morning five years ago, a woman approached Curtis to ask if he needed an apartment. When he told her that he did, she helped him find a place to stay. Curtis said that it was his consistent presence and positive attitude about helping others that showed the woman he was committed to getting better.

That commitment continues today.

Each morning, Curtis washes pots and pans, as well as any other task. Years of service have given him an eye for seeing work that needs to be done. The words of thanks by guests as they leave remind him that “God is here” and that the Lord has provided him with a special place. He encourages others to do their best and trust that they too will find a place where they can thrive.

“If you let your light shine, he’ll find a place for you.”

 

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

2014 Fresh Produce Preservation Project Report

Becky and Dora

Becky and Dora

The Fresh Produce Preservation Project (FPPP), started in 2010, perfectly complements the Gathering’s mission to feed the hungry and to do so with respect and dignity. By increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in our meals, we increase the nutritional value and food options available to our guests. Over the past four years, the FPPP has continued to expand and improve. This year, we welcomed a new Fresh Produce Project Manager: UW-Milwaukee Conservation and Environmental Sciences student, Dora.

Dora’s environmental focus brought new recipes, new connections and new knowledge to the project. One notable new partner was Duane, from Compost Express. Duane brought us produce such as plums, apples, peaches, corn, onions, potatoes and more that was in good shape and would have otherwise been composted. In addition, Duane took all remaining compostable materials from the project so we could limit our waste.

We also continued partnerships with the Hunger Task Force Farm and the Witte’s Vegetable Farm, who once again donated the majority of the project’s produce. We received contributions of apples again this year from the Mequon Nature Preserve, and additional produce from the UWM Food and Garden Club. We are grateful for their continued contributions. Dr. Phillips from UW-Milwaukee (whose class partnered with us last year for our COOLBOT project) also remained a strong partner, continuing to bring classes to assist with the project. Special thanks again, to All Saints Cathedral for allowing us to use their space for our Coolbot.

Produce colunteers picked apples at the Mequon Nature Preserve

Produce colunteers picked apples at the Mequon Nature Preserve

As always, our mighty volunteer force made the project possible. With almost 70 volunteers, 23% returning and 77% new, there were plenty of hands on deck. New volunteers included Milwaukee Public School students, a service group from NEWaukee, and Marquette University volunteers among other individuals and groups. Volunteers chopped peppers, canned apple pie filling, picked potatoes, onions and carrots and went out of their way to put away as much produce as possible for use in our community meals. Already in winter of 2015 we have used frozen potatoes in dishes, mirepoix in soups and sauces, and greens and poblano peppers in casseroles. Not to mention the onions. Let’s just say, by the end of the produce season, we were all in tears.

Thanks again to everyone who made the project possible this year. We are proud of the work we do to contribute to health and sustainability in Milwaukee and we are looking forward to what next season will bring.

Check out these all-star volunteers who reached service milestones in 2014:

100+ Hours Volunteering with the FPPP Eileen Duffey - 105 total hours

30+ Hours Volunteering with the FPPP Jill Kortebein - 45 total hours Lisa Kortebein - 30 total hours

Dora and returning produce project volunteers after a pepper-filled session

Dora and returning produce project volunteers after a pepper-filled session

TOTAL PRODUCE PRESERVED 1964 lbs. frozen vegetables, 30 quarts apple pie filling

478 lbs of carrots, 400 lbs of corn, 384 lbs of potatoes, 300 lbs of onions, 140 lbs of poblano peppers, 123 lbs of bell peppers, 70 lbs of mirepoix (carrot, onion and celery mixture), 40 lbs of green beans, 29 lbs tomatoes