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Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013

Heroes of the Week: The Gathering of Southeast Wisconsin Volunteers

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The Gathering of Southeast Wisconsin, founded in 1982, is an independent nonprofit organization that provides ten free meals each week, 51 weeks a year, at three Milwaukee locations to people who would otherwise go hungry. Breakfast is served Monday-Friday, 8:30-9:30 a.m., at St. James’ Episcopal Church (833 W. Wisconsin Ave.); lunch is served on Saturdays, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at St. James, Christian Faith Fellowship Church East (724 S. Layton Blvd.) and Our Next Generation Neighborhood Center (3421 W. Lisbon Ave.); and dinner is served Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:30-5:30 p.m., at Christian Faith.

The 1,500-2,000 annual volunteers are the backbone of the organization and do 98% of the direct service work. During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, The Gathering’s volunteers donated 36,399 hours, allowing the organization to serve 150,336 meals. The Gathering also collaborates with mental health, legal assistance, medical assistance and supply distribution organizations to respond to the needs of the guests. Additionally, the nonprofit began a Fresh Produce Preservation Project (FPPP), where volunteers freeze and can thousands of pounds of fresh produce to include in meals throughout the year.

“We are blessed with volunteers,” says Virginia Schrag, executive director of The Gathering. “Our volunteers have a very good understanding of the guest population and know how important it is to treat people the same way you want to be treated. Most know guests by name. That kind of relationship and interaction builds trust and the services we are able to provide through collaborations are more likely to be utilized.”

Volunteers are needed for cooking teams, to help with the FPPP and to help raise funds. Donations can be made online or by holding a food or supply drive in your area to collect needed items such as canned corn and beans, or warm clothing such as waterproof jackets and socks. For more information, visit thegatheringwis.org or contact Schrag at 414-272-4122.