On a subzero Milwaukee morning last week, DMers helped serve breakfast to nearly 200 guests of The Gathering, a community meal program providing 11 home-cooked meals per week. The guests who visit the St. James Episcopal Church breakfast site come from all walks of life, including the homeless, seniors, veterans and those with chronic health issues. But they share a common need—food for body, mind and spirit.
“Volunteering here is always great experience,” said Rob Petrie, Digital Measures Sales Operation Specialist. “My favorite part is meeting new people in Milwaukee, both volunteers and guests, and getting to know the people who share our city.”
Hospitality for All
More than 1,500 volunteers perform 98 percent of the direct service work at The Gathering every year, serving guests regardless of color, race, creed or orientation. “The only criterion is need,” said Angela Wright, Program and Volunteer Manager at The Gathering. “We’re a hospitality ministry. We ask upfront that volunteers come in ready to be friendly—to greet people, ask how they are and serve them with respect and dignity. Some guests have been homeless for a long time.”
Snapshot of Breakfast
Hot meals are prepared from scratch on site by a core group of volunteers. When we visited, the kitchen team cooked up a hearty eggs-and-bacon breakfast—ballast against a bitter cold day for The Gathering’s guests. DMers took a supporting role, loading trays with pastries, packaging food for guests to take away with them, dishing up food and serving beverages—and post-meal cleanup, of course.
Food donations to The Gathering come from Hunger Task Force, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, restaurants including Starbucks and McDonalds and other local donors. The United Way, corporations, churches and colleges including neighboring Marquette University provide financial support as well as volunteers.
Feeding a Need
The Gathering served its first meal in 1982, and now provides more than 90,000 meals per year at four locations throughout Milwaukee. Some volunteers, including some who were previously guests of The Gathering, have served the organization for more than 25 years. “They get kind of addicted,” Wright said. “They love knowing that they’re doing their part and trying to help out someone that’s in need.”
“The staff at The Gathering is a well-oiled machine, and gave us so much insight to those who would be visiting that day,” said Marie Scimeca, Digital Measures Corporate Events Manager. “The morning inspired me to want to give a little more of my time, more often to those in need because they deserve to feel special and be treated with respect.”
In addition to meals, The Gathering collaborates with community partners to provide services associated with ending hunger and homelessness. Legal aid, medical professionals, community advocates and others with resources around hunger and homelessness keep regular hours at The Gathering’s sites during meals to assist guests.
Digital Measures gives all DMers two paid day per year to volunteer and offers multiple community outreach opportunities to get involved. DMers always step up. In 2016, DMers logged hundreds of hours, pitching in to serve meals, collect and package food donations, plant crops, split wood, clean up trails, teach kids about business and more. It’s deeply rewarding to give back to a community that’s been Digital Measures home for 17 years. Thanks, Milwaukee!