Mark Geirach's office at the Saukville Community Food Pantry is piled with packages of diapers and other dry goods; in fact, every nook and cranny that can be used in the basement of the Parkside Community United Church of Christ is filled, but the goods are constantly in motion. "Every day we're open, 30 to 40 people each leave here with a grocery cart full — and I mean full — of food," Mark said. While it may appear that the place is well-stocked, the shelves, refrigerators and freezers of the "shopping area" are nearly bare after just one day of shoppers, and then must be restocked. "We've done real well with a small space, but we're at the limit. We need to find a new location to operate and grow."
Mark has been the Executive Director of the Pantry since they opened as a 501 (c) 3 in January of 2012. Before that time, a pantry was run by the former Immaculate Conception church in Saukville, but the members that ran it were running down and needed help. Members from Parkside, like Mark, helped to take over the project, but knew that in order to really be able to get the help needed, it would have to run independent from the churches. In the beginning, they started with some card tables piled with food; today, the Saukville Community Food Pantry serves over 475 families per month across all of Ozaukee County.
"There's more of a need than people realize in Ozaukee," Mark explained. "[Family Promise is] building a homeless shelter and people think we don't have homeless in Ozaukee County, but we do. You don't see the need here like you do in larger metropolitan areas; you don't see them under bridges or in alleys because they're couch surfing or sleeping in their cars."
Providing fresh food is a challenge the Pantry takes seriously. Thanks to a grant, the Pantry was able to get two aquaponic towers from Wisconsin-based Fork Farms, which provide fresh lettuce year-round, right from the Pantry. The towers are largely overseen by members of the Ozaukee Master Gardeners, which is just one of the ways the Pantry connects and collaborates with other community groups. Offering toiletries and other personal hygiene items is also important.
"You can buy cases of soda with your Food Share card, but you can't buy toilet paper — there's something wrong with that system," said Mark. "Junk food is cheaper, but it costs more money somewhere else down the line in medical costs. The more we can provide good food, the better."
The Saukville Community Food Pantry offers more than just food from their shelves: they will once again offer a free meal every other Saturday for people in need, beginning Saturday, October 2nd, which had been put on hold due to the pandemic. The Pantry also runs mobile pantries in Grady Park, next door to the Pantry, from April through October in concert with Feeding America; does a Back to School Fair every Fall where they recently provided school supplies to 365 kids; and, runs a Backpack Food program for kids in the Port Washington-Saukville School District elementary schools and middle school who qualify for free or reduced lunches to sign up for food to take home to their families for the weekend.
"We work with any group whose goal is keeping people fed," Mark said. "We would love the opportunity to expand our programs into other school districts, but we're just lacking in space."
Building a campaign for a new space is next on the Pantry's list. Luckily, they we're able to connect with a program at UWM that connects architectural students with a real-world project. This year, the students will do studies for the location of a new facility, then move onto conceptual drawings and recommendations for program expansions. Building new is one option, but the Pantry is open to all possibilities that might give them the 8,000 to 10,000 square feet they need, and while they're hoping to stay based in Saukville, even that is subject to change for the right location. With any luck, the Pantry will be awarded grant money to help with this new venture.
Most people know to help the Saukville Community Food Pantry by donating food and personal hygiene supplies (a list of needed supplies can be found on their website), but it is difficult to cover the real expenses of operating the Pantry, from staff salaries to rent, insurance and their truck, because grant money rarely covers those types of costs. One way people can help is to use Amazon Smile when they make purchases on Amazon and to choose the Pantry as the beneficiary, or just donate directly by clicking on the "Donate Now" button at the top of their website. However, a really fun way to help the Pantry is coming up on Saturday, October 9th from 3-9 p.m. at Grady Park in Saukville: the Food Truck Frenzy! Hit up a variety of local food trucks while listening to live music from Sam Grady & Steve Vogt and Shut The Front Door.
Of course, volunteers are always needed and welcome to join in on the Saukville Food Pantry's mission. "We started with a motto from Mother Teresa: 'If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one,'" Mark said. "We went on to feed hundreds of people, so that grew into 'Fresh Food, Fresh Hope.' We've done real well in a small space; imagine what we could do if we are given the opportunity to grow."
Learn more about the Saukville Community Food Pantry and how you can help by visiting their website: saukvillefoodpantry.org/
Treasures of Oz, a part of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, is partnering with Gathering Waters and offering visitors a self-guided tour of nearly 1200 acres of Ozaukee Washington Land Trust properties in Ozaukee County. Access to these places is available free to everyone for walking, hiking, bird watching, meditation and photography because all are beneficiaries of that Trust. On the tour, visitors will learn what a land trust is and why they are a key part of Wisconsin recreation and sustainable lands.
The 2021 Eco-Tour is a self-guided tour of the 15 preserves that are either under ownership or easement with the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust. Participants download a passport and event directions at treasuresofoz.org. Passport stops are verified by finding KEY WORDS that are posted on event signs at the kiosks or near the entrances of each property. Passports are mailed in or sent in electronically. Every key word found counts for a raffle ticket and a drawing is held after the event. Prizes are usually dining certificates for Ozaukee County restaurants.
Special passports are available for kids. They will need to locate a Gnome with a Poem at each site to answer their raffle questions. The Gnomes are located near the same kiosks and entrances with the event signs...but gnomes are small and often hide.
The last 2 days of the event include an Estate Sale at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, where everything in the clubhouse will be sold to begin the process of taking the building down. The clubhouse has been a special place as part of the Port Washington Country Club and later the Squires Golf Course. Countless area residents held weddings and special events, came for dinners, came for golf and enjoyed beverages at the upper bar and the iconic bar in “The Trap” on the lower level.
Land Trust Days is the time of the year when Wisconsin Land Trusts encourage residents to see what land trusts do for the state and their neighborhood in particular. It is sponsored by Gathering Waters, a highly valued resource for land trusts in Wisconsin. It provides, advice, support and services that individual land trusts, many of whom are all volunteer, just can’t do easily on their own. Gathering Waters is headquartered in Madison and is essential in working with the state government in supporting land trusts, which are major players, often unknown and unrecognized, for Wisconsin tourism, resources and working lands.
Events run from September 13th through the 18th, 2021. For more information, go to:
By Mary Boyle
Since 2016, Voices Found Repertory has become one of my favorite small theatre companies in the Milwaukee area because I am a huge fan of Shakespeare, and this company is all about The Bard. Their shows are intimate, simple and accessible, and they make the most of Milwaukee's local talent, with many of the actors doubling as production team members. In 2018, they staged the rarely seen Titus Andronicus, and in 2019, a streamlined version of the epic Henry V. Now in their 5th season, after a pandemic-induced hiatus, VFR returns with one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
Although it is a bit past midsummer, this delightfully light and fun frolic on the stage is just the performance needed as we finally make our way back to live theatre. Inspiration Studios in West Allis is a quick trip from Oz and located just a block off Greenfield Ave. in the hip and happening historic district; the theatre is cozy, but not cramped, and well-appointed. Be sure to get to the show about 15 minutes early to find the actors all on stage performing a variety of songs you're sure to recognize.
Directed by Sarah Zapiain, Midsummer is a tale of lovers: Hermia (Haley Ebinal) is being forced by her father, Egeus (Kyle Conner), to wed Demetrius (Phillip Steenbekkers), but she is truly in love with Lysander (Grace DeWolff). The two lovers plan to meet in the forest that evening to run away together, but a problem occurs when Helena (Maya Danks) tells Demetrius of the lovers' plans, hoping to win Demetrius for herself. Demetrius runs into the woods to get back Hermia, with lovesick Helena at his heels. Meanwhile, a group of laborers is rehearsing a play near the woods for the upcoming wedding of Duke Theseus (Brandon Haut) and his reluctant bride, Hippolyta (Amber Weissert) and, in the forest, the Fairy Queen and King, Titania and Oberon (Weissert/Haut), are having relationship issues of their own. Oberon's mischievous fairy messenger, Puck (Kyle Conner), makes both purposeful and accidental fun with the lovers and the players, and hilarity ensues.
The play within the play is truly the highlight of Midsummer, and these players are pretty great: Jessica Trznadel as Flute, Alexis Furseth as Snout, Kazoua Thao as Snug, Brittany Haut as Starveling, Hannah Kubiak as Quince, and Ben Yela as Nick Bottom, who has the misfortune of having his head replaced by that of a donkey by that trickster, Puck, then magically made the object of the Fairy Queen's affections for the amusement of all. Ben Yela is one of my favorite local actors to watch, and he steals the show in this production — I literally laughed so hard I cried. A truly talented cast, all around, though, and certainly an excellent way to spend an evening of live theatre.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM runs September 9th through the 12th at Inspiration Studios, located at 1500 S 73rd St. in West Allis. Thursday - Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday shows at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and available online or at the Box Office 30 minutes before the show. VFR highly recommends that all patrons purchase their tickets online prior to the performance, as seating is extremely limited. Pay What You Can on Thursday, September 9th is not valid online. All performances suitable for audience members 18+ or 16+ with a legal guardian. Run time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
By Mary Boyle
Long before the pandemic, I was working from home with first one child and a dog, then added another child, then just two children for a time and then, about a year before the pandemic hit, I threw a new puppy into the mix. Needless to say, working from home was not very productive, but there was one place, if I could manage to get away from home, where I loved to work: a coffee shop. Depending on who I was meeting or what other errands I needed to run, I had a list of favorite shops throughout Oz where the baristas knew my favorite drink and, because community building is my jam, would discuss the local happenings with me. A coffee shop is the thinking person's pub; a social equalizer where both the wealthy and poor, old and young, and every affiliation or label you can slap on someone can gather and mix without raising an eyebrow. One of my favorites was Smith Bros. Coffee House in downtown Port Washington, because it was in walking distance to my house, had beautiful Lake Michigan views, and the people that worked there never failed to make me smile.
Then, the pandemic hit. The pandemic hit right after my husband and I moved our two children and our puppy out of Port and into the woods of Little Kohler (about as far north west in Oz as you can go and still be in Oz). After a few months, the cabin fever set in. While I at least occasionally went to the grocery store, the kids were just stuck at home almost entirely. Like many, we were desperate to get out and do something that felt normal. Our first journey was to Smith Bros.: we ordered curbside, piled in my little car with the puppy and made the drive into Port. Even though we weren't able to go inside, it was so lovely to see Anna, the manager, when she handed our order through the window, and to have our favorite and familiar treats. Such a simple joy; it was heaven.
By the end of the summer, I was desperate to get out of my house, but there were still no coffee shops that had indoor seating. That's when I came across the ad for a barista at Smith Bros. I thought to myself: What would it be like to work on the other side of the counter? Baristas are so cool, with their tattoos and colored hair and piercings...was I too old to be a barista? I'd spent years drinking the lattes, Americanos and cappuccinos, but I'd never actually made any of them...how cool would it be to learn how? Besides, it was the only way I could get back in to a coffee shop. So, I applied, I interviewed and, to my surprise, I was hired and put in training with largely a bunch of people who were 15 to 20 years younger than me (and two who were Seniors in high school, like my daughter).
Now, two things happened pretty quickly: everyone realized I knew how to "people" really well, so they often stuck me in front of the register; and, I quite lovingly became known as the cafe mom (What can I say? I was a professional nanny for almost two decades.). Here are just a few things I learned:
However, the most important things I learned were not about business, economics or barista skills, they were about people. I learned more about the people I worked with (Anna, Kaylen, Mikey, Susie, Kat, Stacy, Noah, Joey, Nathanael, Hanna, Paige, Ciara, Gabby, and Maddie), who are like another family to me, as Smith Bros. became another home in an even deeper sense than it was before. I never dreaded coming into work because I enjoyed being with all of them so much.
I learned about the people in our community — some who I know by their drink: white mocha frappe, no whip, guy; bucket of jade cloud tea lady; extra scoop hot chocolate guy; iced king caramel kid; large coffee with 1 or 2 ice cubes guy; large lakefront fog lady. Some I know by other characteristics: Bailey the dog's person; skull and crossbones tie gentleman. For some, I've learned their name and drink: Janel (whatever), Amy (skim java chip frappe, no whip), Josh (extra small Americano with room), Cal (large iced king caramel), Bob (medium mild coffee), Kyle (4 shot medium oat boi), Melissa (large shoreman's fleece and a large iced white chocolate mocha with whip), Sarah (espresso shake), Lindsay (large lakefront fog), Howard (creamsicle), Fred (skim cappuccino), Brian (large vanilla soy chai latte), Gracie formerly of the Green but now of the Black (lake effect, but it used to be a king caramel), Jim (latte), Ryleen (vanilla white mocha), Joey (large hazelnut breve), Aaron (small caramel frappe), and the one who I will miss most of all, because he passed away just recently, is Clem (sugar free lake effect).
We didn't just sell you drinks and tasty food, we traded laughs, stories, news and wishes. We picked on Mikey together. You brought us gifts. When Ryleen saw me dressed as a taco for Halloween, she brought me her candy cane costume to wear for Christmas and we had a blast with it! I made a butterbeer just for Kalyn, a banana smoothie just for Ty, and I have no idea how many grilled cheese sandwiches Jackson might have eaten. I never figured out why Port's City Administrator goes as Paul in our shop, but I will miss seeing him every week. I will miss our adorable Cintas lad, Bryce, who brightened every Friday. I will miss the Duluth Trading Co. people like Bill (chicken sandwich with cheddar and a coke), Sheree (lake effect), Joey and Bob (arnold palmer with a shot of blackberry). We built a community within a community. I can't tell you how glad I am to have had the chance to be on the other side of the counter.
I had only planned on staying a year before I went back on my writing way, but I hadn't planned on Smith Bros. not still being there for me after I left. These last days were bittersweet: I sold the last black bean burger, the last two chicken sandwiches, and the last oat boi (to Kyle, in fact, which was just perfect). I ate way too many salmon wraps and savored every bite, especially when Mikey wrote yet another name that rhymed with "Mary" on the outside. There were high fives and hugs; there was an outpouring of concern and love. I stopped in and got one last coffee - a lake effect - on the very last day, but I couldn't bear to be there when they closed the doors for the last time.
I'm a writer, so this is how I process the hard things. I hope it helps those of you who were maybe feeling a bit sheepish about the hole that opened up in your hearts when you heard that Smith Bros. was closing — don't feel silly, the loss is real. The most important thing I learned about working at Smith Bros. in a pandemic is that people need each other. We should be proud of the little community we all had a part in building. We will find new ones, I promise, but it's okay to take a moment and acknowledge that this one...well, this one was special. I will miss you all — yes, even you, skull and crossbones tie gentleman.
I apologize to anyone whose drink I messed up and who didn't have the courage to tell me, or those who hoped to talk but I was too busy with a noisy blender. I apologize if I missed calling you out in this article. Most of all, I apologize if I spelled your name wrong. Truly, I can't thank everyone enough for making a tough year so much brighter. Goodbyes are always hard, so I'll just say see you later. Hit me up for coffee if you need to chat — I know some good places.