GREAT EXAMPLES OF GIVING

St. James Parish Mukwonago 604 Dozen Christmas Cookies

A longstanding tradition for Gathering Christmas meals is to give each guest a treat bag filled with a piece of fruit, Christmas cookies and candy.  St. James Parish Mukwonago provided all ingredients this past Christmas:  7,255 homemade cookies, 1,493 candy canes, 534 oranges, 368 apples, 418 cuties plus assorted scarves, gloves, hats and winter headbands.

Michael Best & Friedrich LLP: Holiday Card Exchange Program 

Xmas card

Attorneys at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP opt to write checks to a worthy cause in “exchange” for sending holiday cards to each other.  In 2015 that meant $675 for The Gathering’s work.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

St Pauls epis

Provides personal supplies for Gathering guests four times/year, including socks, scarves, sleeping bags, backpacks, knit caps, ear warmers, coats and hoodies.

Music for Charity 

Music Notes

Karen Beaumont, Milwaukee organist, designated the proceeds from two of her 2015 concerts for The Gathering and Tamarack Waldorf School.  This was also part of Karen’s birthday celebration.  The Gathering received over $200 to continue our work.

Alternative Birthday Gift  

Wrapped Gifts

One of our young volunteers decided that instead of gifts for his 13th birthday he would like to collect donations for people in need.  The Gathering received $125 for our Community Meals – that’s enough to provide breakfast for 50 guests!  Thank you, SB!

Christmas in July

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In July, you’re putting on sunscreen, heading to a local festival, or taking walks outside.At The Gathering’s South Side site, our guests are celebrating Christmas. Thanks to a partnership with Johnson Controls, we have celebrated Christmas in July at the Gathering for over 20 years.

The meal (roast beef, fresh mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, Christmas cookies, and ice cream sundaes) is paid for by Johnson Controls, and prepared and served by JCI employees. To top it off, each guest receives a gift bag supplied by JCI employees, and each child is given a treat bag full of wrapped presents and goodies donated by Maureen and Gary Shebesta. Holiday music and decorations added to the festive atmosphere.

GIVERS’ HONOR ROLL 2015

The Gathering Board of Directors thanks the following generous supporters giving $250 or more between February 1, 2015 and July 31, 2015

$15,000 – $20,000
EFSP Phase XXXII
Catholic Community
Foundation – JCC Fund

$10,000 – $14,999
1 Anonymous Donor
The Roundy’s Foundation

Staff members Angela, Becky and Marianne at The Gathering's first ever major donor event.

Staff members Angela, Becky and Marianne at The Gathering’s first ever major donor event.

$5,000 – $9,999
Bader Philanthropies
Dr. Bronner’s Family
Foundation
Gardner Foundation
Hunger Relief Fund of
Wisconsin
Johnson Controls
Mainman Family Fund (other funds) – The Greater
Milwaukee Foundation
Seaman-Goes Family
Foundation
Stackner Family Foundation

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$2,500 – $4,999
1 Anonymous Donor
Robert W. Baird Foundation
Christ Church Episcopal – Whitefish Bay
Fox Point Evangelical Lutheran Church
Marquette University
United Way of Greater Milwaukee – Donor Choice

$1,000 – $2,499
1 Anonymous Donor
CNA Foundation Matching Gift Plan
Marie DesMarais
Gathering Memorial Fund -The Greater Milwaukee Foundation
Grainger Matching Charitable Gifts Program
Evan and Marion Helfaer Foundation
Steve Holt
Immanuel Presbyterian Church – Milwaukee
David and Mel Johnson
Silas Johnson
Joy Global
Kuehl Family Foundation
Robert Martin
Mike and Ginny McBride
Albert Nicholas
St. Joseph’s Congregation – Wauwatosa
St. John Vianney Congregation – Brookfield
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – Milwaukee
Gary and Maureen Shebesta
Charles and Eileen Stoner
Twin Disc, Inc.
Willard and Mary Walker,
Jr./Racine Community
Foundation
John Zacher

Elliott1

$500 – $999
2 Anonymous Donors
American Exchanger Services
American Family Insurance Group
Community United Methodist Church – Elm Grove
Law Offices of Eugene E. Detert
Jeffrey and Cynthia Garland
GE Foundation
Eugene and Gwendolyn Lavin
Daryl and Kim Lueck
Michael McClone
Robert and Colleen Miller
Milwaukee Capital, Inc.
Kevin J. and Cheryl O’Connor
Our Lady of Lourdes-Milwaukee
St. Jude Congregation – Wauwatosa
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church – Dousman
St. Monica Parish – Whitefish Bay
Patrick and Joanne Ward
Eugene and Carmen Witt

$250 – $499
5 Anonymous Donors
Jeff and Susan Allen
Michael Carter
Christ Church of Delavan
Stephanie Davis
Joann Henry
David and Jane Johnson
Jeff and Christa Klarer
Rebecca Long
Charles and Brunetta Matthews
St. Augustine Congregation – West Allis
St. Francis Episcopal Church – Menomonee Falls
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church – Cedarburg
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church – Hubertus
Robert and Claudia Stewart
Trinity Episcopal Church – Wauwatosa

Reflection – August 2015

Our reflection this newsletter is written by Becky Long, The Gathering’s Program and Volunteer Manager. August 1 was Becky’s last day with us; she is moving on to work in the housing field. We will miss her terribly. ~ Ginny Schrag, Executive Director

Staff members Angela, Becky and Marianne at The Gathering's first ever major donor event.

Staff members Angela, Becky, and Marianne at The Gathering’s first ever major donor event.

I remember my first staff meeting with The Gathering vividly. The staff team felt like a curious little world that I wanted to be a part of – but was also kind of intimidated by. It was hard to imagine back then how quickly I’d get swept up into that energy, humor, compassion and dynamic fast-paced environment that kept and still keeps The Gathering spinning.
I remember another staff meeting on the south side nearly a year later. We had had a few very busy weeks with some expected and unexpected challenges, but everyone managed and continued the spin. At this particular meeting, we slowed down. Ginny took a moment to tell the staff how thankful she was for their work. I hadn’t been around very long, but I remember in that moment feeling proud and joyful. I remember looking around and agreeing wholeheartedly. This was an exceptional team. I knew that I belonged to this team and could learn from them, and learn I did. Jim taught me that tough love and forming relationships can go a long way. Ed taught me the beauty that comes with devoting yourself to a cause. Moses taught me that there’s always a way to make it work. Dennis taught me, no matter how hard things get, you can still hope for the million dollars. Marianne taught me how to seamlessly integrate love, laughter and efficiency into the workplace and Ginny taught me the importance of being a patient, humble and incredibly dedicated leader.
I remember when Bob, Angela, and Rosy were added to the pack. Sitting at staff meetings, it was weird to not feel like the “new kid” anymore, but they never really felt like new kids either. Angela deeply cared about the guests, volunteers, staff and the Breakfast Program from day 1. And Bob’s quips about corn dogs helped maintain the joyful attitude The Gathering is famous for. And who could forget Rosy? Together with Angela, they form a dream team with a passion that not only keeps The Gathering spinning, but pumps the Breakfast Program up to warp speed with a contagious, fun liveliness that can’t stop, won’t stop, and shouldn’t stop.
I guess it’s strange, but leaving this meal program, my reflections don’t bring me back to tables of food and guests. The tables that stick out in my mind are the office tables. Where the people I had grown to care for, learn from and belong to came together–where plans, ideas, concerns, lists, laughter and happiness were shared. The table that I come back to in my reflections doesn’t bring people together for a physical meal, but one of purpose, fulfillment, fellowship and spiritual nourishment. I know when I leave, The Gathering will keep on spinning. New sources of energy will come and go and keep it alive. I am sad to leave what has felt like family for three years, but I know there will always be a place for me at the table.

Michelle P. Mooney Scholarship Fund Recipients

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Stanley, a MPM scholarship recipient

“I am committed. I am committed to my recovery and to teaching music,” Stanley Hudson told me over the phone. His voice was so up-beat you could almost hear his smile. “Life is real good now. I am taking it back.” Stanley was one of this year’s Michelle P Mooney (MPM) Scholarship Fund recipients. The MPM Scholarship Fund was established in honor of The Gathering’s first Executive Director, to help with educational expenses for those connected with The Gathering. Our second recipient is Loneva Myrick.

I had the pleasure of talking with Stanley about what brought him to apply for the scholarship and how the money would be used. Stanley has a contagious energy and honesty that makes for an enjoyable conversation.

Born and raised in Alabama, Stanley’s passion for music led to a music education degree in 1978. Married with three children, Stanley described his life as a happy one until he “backslid” and became hooked on alcohol and drugs. A twenty year battle with addiction caused him to end up “homeless, jobless…I lost my family, my wife, my kids.” But Stanley will not be defined by his addiction. He has been sober for over a year and is looking forward to once again teaching music.

“The scholarship paid for a course for me to update my music teaching certificate. I now have a permanent teaching job that starts in two weeks.”

When asked what he was most looking forward to with his new job he said,

“Getting back in contact with kids in the community and putting on concerts. I used to put on great Christmas and winter concerts. That’s really what I’m looking forward to, performing live with the kids.”

What did the scholarship mean to Stanley?

“It made me feel that, when you’re going through a low point, a bad situation, there’s people out there that want to help pull you up. People do recover, people pull themselves up. I ate at The Gathering for 5 years, went back and saw the sign to apply for the scholarship and thought – I’m doing real good now, I should apply. One day I hope to do some volunteer work with The Gathering to give back.”

Stanley thanked The Gathering board and staff saying, “Keep on helping people. You never know who you’re lifting up.”

SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR 2015 GATHERING GOLF CLASSIC SPONSORS & RAFFLE DONORS

GOLD SPONSORS ($2,500):


JohnZacher JGAd TDAd


SILVER SPONSORS ($1000):

55a523c36d3c1.image     2013 Milcap Logo

* Mel & David Johnson * Law Office of Eugene E. Detert *
Mike & Ginny McBride * Ab Nicholas * Chuck & Eileen Stoner *


Hole Sponsors  ($100 per hole)

Advocacy Investment, LLC (1)
American Family Insurance (1)
Data Financial, Inc. (1)
Mel & David Johnson (1)
Joy Global, Inc. (2)
Law Office of Eugene E. Detert (1)
Mike & Ginny McBride (1)
Milwaukee Capital, Inc. (1)
Harry & Ellie Moseley (1)
Ab Nicholas (1)
Ruby Isle Auto (2)
Chuck & Eileen Stoner (1)
Twin Disc (2)
Bob Wolfgram Insurance Agency (1)
John Zacher (2)

Raffle Prize Donors

103.7 Kiss FM
Betty Brinn Children’s
Museum
Blue’s Egg
Bosley on Brady
Breadsmith
Charles Allis & Villa
Terrace Art Museums
Colectivo
Comedy Sportz
Discovery World
Doubletree by Hilton
Dr. McGillicuddy
Florentine Opera
Fred Astaire Dance
Company
Friends of Boerner Botanical Gardens
German Fest
Glorioso’s Italian Market
Green Bay Packers
Harley-Davidson Motor Company
Indulgence Chocolatiers
Greg Johnson
Joy Global
Klement’s Sausage
Lakefront Brewery
Marcus Center for the
Performing Arts
Marcus Theatre Corporation
Mike and Ginny McBride
Menards—Eau Claire, WI
Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee County Zoo
Milwaukee Food Tours
Milwaukee Irish Festivals, Inc.
Milwaukee Repertory Theatre
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.
Moxie Fitness LLC
Next Act Theatre
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
Ray’s Wine and Spirits
Schlitz Audobon Center
Maureen and Gary Shebesta
Skydive Milwaukee
Skylight Musical Theatre
Southwest Airlines
Sprecher Brewing Company
Trader Joe’s—Bayshore Town Center
Teresa Trostmiller
Wine for Ring Toss donated by Gathering Board Members
Woodman’s Markets

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

Bags

Volunteers played picnic games like Bags. For some, it was their first time! (Or so they claimed)

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’ Friends of The Gathering Award

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

FRIEND 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)

IMG_5559

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

Gathering Golf Classic 2015

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Staff members Ginny and Marianne admire the golf banner before the downpour

As some of you may know, we had to cancel the golf outing on Monday, June 22 2015, due to severe thunderstorms in the morning and the threat of same throughout the afternoon.  It did clear up around 2:00, allowing those who came on out (we could not reach all golfers in time) to golf anyway.  Each paid golfer will receive a raincheck allowing them to golf 18 holes with a cart on another weekday this golf season.  Because the benefits (lunch, dinner and beverage tickets) will not be part of that raincheck, we will re-send charitable contribution letters to those who paid.

The Gathering staff is working on a backup plan for the Golf raffle, and we will alert golfers to the new plan as soon as we are able.

Thank you to everyone who supported the event! Stay tuned for more in-depth information on dollars raised, sponsorships and the raffle.

Meet Bob: The Gathering’s new Operations Coordinator

Bob came into The Gathering’s office with a photo of the back of The Gathering’s van full of lettuce, milk, eggs, bread, desserts and more, “Can you believe all of the good food we got?” He was talking about his recent excursion to Feeding America, where he and Rosy – The Gathering’s breakfast cook – stopped in to see what they could use for the breakfast meal. Bob’s enthusiasm was contagious as he showed the picture around the office.

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Action shot – Bob loads fresh milk into the van with a smile on his face

After a few weeks of training with long time Operations Managers Dennis and Jim, Bob has been at the position for four weeks. He is already working to balance ordering food, driving to pickups and deliveries, measuring quantities for meals, recipe planning, food storage and more. The Operations Manager position—as Dennis and Jim know all too well—is one of multi-tasking.

Bob, who runs an insurance agency with his wife Sue, certainly knows multi-tasking. In addition to his work with The Gathering, Bob still spends time selling auto, home and life insurance primarily to families. He also spends time with his own family – 4 children and 7 grandchildren, “I am happiest when spending time with my family…doing just about anything” he explained.  When not working or spending time with family, Bob has also volunteered at the VA and the Red Cross. That’s how he first got interested in the nonprofit sector. He explained that The Gathering’s job post was similar to his work with the Red Cross,

“I know Milwaukee has a lot of needs and I felt I could blend nicely with this [the operation manager] position”

Bob has been blending nicely with The Gathering community the past few weeks. When asked what his favorite part of the job is so far, he responded:

“Without a doubt, the people.  The volunteers at the sites are great to work with!  As are the partners again that I have met at the places that help us.   I also enjoy the staff at the south side, St James and of course the people at our office who have made me feel very welcome!  All of that plus just knowing that what I do does make a difference.  The people who come to our meal program not only get a meal, but they get to come in to a safe warm place to enjoy a meal and be with other people who care.”

We are thankful to have another committed, passionate person join The Gathering’s team. You can see Bob Monday through Friday on The Gathering’s van. He’ll be the one with cases of fruit and bread.

Finding a way to survive – by Wyatt Massey

Elliott Uglum has always been a story-teller. Anyone who has had a conversation with him can see how animated he is – he comes alive in his stories. Below, are just a few of Uglum’s stories that he shared with us.

Uglum tells stories at a local meal program of his days as a colonel. (Photo by Wyatt Massey)

Uglum tells stories at a local meal program. (Photo by Wyatt Massey)

One moment, Elliot Uglum was playing “war games” in the Bayou of Louisiana. Then, he was in an actual war.

“Next thing you know, I’m on a ship going to Vietnam,” Uglum said.

Troubled by bad feet and the residual effects of three gunshot wounds, Uglum walks with care. Yet, he speaks with force: He knows how to survive. It kept him alive in Vietnam, helped him overcome an alcohol addiction and multiple Wisconsin winters living in a tent.

“I’ve had a good life, I’ve had a rough life.”

Uglum was born and raised in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. When he could not find work after high school, Uglum traveled south on a rumor that there was work in Tennessee. His first job was fixing potholes on roadways in Memphis, Tennessee. He also found part-time work as a truck driver, taxi driver, body shop mechanic and sandwich cook.

Work, despite being part time, was steady. Uglum even fixed and painted a 1922 Bentley for a man in London, a job Uglum recalls with pride.

He was forced to leave those jobs behind, though, when he went to war.

Uglum and his friends often traveled to the French Cajun neighborhoods of Louisiana in the early 1970s to play “war games.” They would simulate battle situations with canoes in the swamps. One day, Uglum explained, a military recruiter saw him swimming and recruited him as a swim instructor in 1972.

Uglum’s movement in the water was noiseless. He kept his arms and legs low as to not disturb the water. The army needed this kind of training to sneak up on Vietnamese ships. Uglum became their instructor and mentor.

“Our job was to sink enemy ships,” Uglum said.

A group of soldiers would swim up to a ship and place plastic explosives on it. They had to move undetected in the dark since the ships were patrolled by armed Vietnamese soldiers, he said.

Uglum recalls he would often join the missions. After multiple years as an instructor, his time in the field ended when one such mission went awry. Vietnamese soldiers heard the unit and opened fire on the American attackers. He began pulling injured recruits out of the water when sharp pains ripped across his body. He had been shot in his left shoulder, left leg and between the shoulder blades. Uglum did not let the pain stop him from the rescue.

“I didn’t let go of either one,” Uglum said of the soldiers he was helping.

As the reality of his wounds set in, though, Uglum explained he needed critical medical attention or he would die.

“I started confessing to God everything I did wrong.”

Uglum was rushed to the nearest MASH station, which turned out to be an infirmary for Vietnamese soldiers. His recovery was slow but he had arrived in time. The colonel celebrated his 27th birthday in the enemy hospital.

When he was healthy enough to be moved, Uglum returned to the United States, ending his military career in 1977. Yet, he continues to wear an “Elite Squadron” button on his hat.

Uglum returned to Tennessee and his previous jobs. Not long after, his mother called. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was given six months to live. One of eight children, Uglum’s mother trusted him to run her house and finances. On her request, he moved to Wisconsin.

His mother died on December 9, 1980 at 9 p.m. The exact time is important to Uglum because, two hours later, he learned John Lennon was murdered. The coupling of bad news sent Uglum in a downward spiral.

“I spent six months drunk every day. Those were people I looked up to.”

Uglum was able to hide alcohol addiction enough to keep a job, first as a machinist until 1990 then as a doughnut shop manager until 2001, when he was laid off. Without steady income, he could no longer pay his rent.

The lack of support and nagging injuries from battle contributed to Uglum becoming one of the estimated 49,933 veteran homeless each night.

Yet, Uglum kept surviving. He spent the next two years living with his cousin in a tent between the railroad tracks and the Milwaukee River. They made the tent using a tarp and insulated it with straw from a local farmer. That straw insulated them from the harsh Wisconsin winters.

Finding food was another challenge.

“We ate out of dumpsters and garbage cans,” Uglum said. “If we got sick, we wouldn’t eat out of those garbage cans anymore.”

The two made some money recycling aluminum cans they found. When they had saved enough, they would go to a restaurant for dinner.

Uglum lived in the tent until 2003. By that time, he no longer had shoes and his feet would bleed and well from crushing the aluminum cans. He lives in Milwaukee now, receives disability payments and is saving for his next big adventure: moving out of the cold weather of Wisconsin.

“I’m waiting to get enough money to go back to Tennessee.”

Wyatt Massey is a volunteer story-teller for The Gathering. You can see this and other articles he has written HERE

Volunteer Spotlight: Leadership Volunteers

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. She first heard about The Gathering on the radio and decided to volunteer. The rest is history. Her time with The Gathering has been about,

“showing that you care about people. There’s such a need.”

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

the Bay Leaf Bruisers cook team prepares spaghetti and meat sauce

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 (second from left) 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 story-teller for The Gathering. You can see other articles he has written HERE.