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/
Riveredge Nature Center
Andy Larsen, Riveredge's first Executive Director and naturalist, passed away on Friday, September 22, after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's Disease. It is no stretch to say that Riveredge, as we know it today, would not exist without the immense sacrifice, passion, and devotion of Andy and his family.
Beginning his time at Riveredge just one year after it was founded by daring dreamers from the Whitefish Bay Garden Club in 1968, everything you see at Riveredge today can be traced directly to the work of Andy and the dedicated group of volunteers he inspired and led.
From time spent walking along railroad tracks throughout southern Wisconsin in order to collect remanent prairie seed used to establish the prairies at Riveredge, to pioneering the inquiry-based education style that still is used today at Riveredge, to engaging the curiosity of children and adult learners alike, his legacy will forever continue in every living thing on this land, and in every person that comes to be awed, renewed, and inspired by those living things. Andy's motivating drive was inspiring a deeper understanding and appreciation for our planet in those around him. He succeeded mightily; hundreds of thousands of people have developed a closer relationship to the natural world because of his life and his work.
A public celebration of life will occur on Saturday, November 18th from 1 – 5 p.m. at Mequon Nature Preserve. All memorial gifts received by Riveredge for Andy will be placed in a designated fund to financially support full and partial school field trip scholarships. This will allow countless classes of children the opportunity to engage their curiosity about the natural world on the Riveredge land Andy so loved. Many of the schools most in need of this financial assistance come from urban locations, yet the funds will also be available to schools from any geographic region.
If you would like to donate in memory of Andy, please contact Riveredge Nature Center at (262) 375-2715.
Jim Bohn has been living in Grafton for most of his life; a husband to his wife, Mary Jo, father of three (Elizabeth, Joe, and Anna), and now grandfather of three. After working his way through school while helping to raise his family, Jim worked in corporate management for many years and, even in retirement, continues to find projects to dedicate his time and talents to; throughout it all, though, there has been music.
For Jim, playing guitar, singing, and performing began in his elementary school days, and never stopped -- from churches to nightclubs; in bands and as a solo artist. He has already recorded five CD's of music since 2000: his first with the Ozaukee County Jam Band, then a folk CD in 2002 called "Clear Blue Sky," a gospel/Christian Rock CD titled "Farther up the mountain" in 2004, "These Walls Tell a Story" and "Blues Cowboy Sampler" in 2006, and in 2007, a Christmas CD titled "What Child is This?"
While Jim was thrilled to record music with very talented family and friends, he longed to make some music with professionals -- people who play music for a living, and do nothing else. Finally, this past summer, he met with the guys who play rhythm section for Milwaukee native, Daryl Stuermer, who he had met at previous gigs, and discussed the project; they agreed to help and recording began. Now, the new CD, "Bound for Judah," is finished.
"All of the musicians on the CD are top-grade musicians in their class, and very well known in Milwaukee, and some throughout the US," Bohn said. "Kostia Efimov, who plays piano on the CD, is an internationally known musician from Russia. I have always wanted to do a CD with a full brass section, along with powerful backing vocals. The melodies in these songs have been around for many years, but it was time to put lyrics to the melodies and arrange the songs."
While recording the CD, itself, has fulfilled a lifelong dream, the title was inspired by a miraculous event in Jim's family. In 2008, Jim's eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was thought to be benign but, shortly after the birth of her daughter a year later, a biopsy showed the tumor to be malignant, and the doctors gave Elizabeth just 3-5 years to live. Jim and Mary Jo moved to Minnesota to help care for Elizabeth and their granddaughter from 2011 to 2014 and, against all odds, the tumor shrunk. In May of 2015, six years after her diagnosis, Elizabeth delivered a healthy baby boy named Judah (Jim's first grandson), and the title of the CD came from the many trips to Minnesota Jim has made to visit the "miracle baby."
Jim's music reflects his life: songs of faith and encouragement, and reminiscent of the music he lived through and enjoys, such as the big horn sound of bands like Chicago in the 70's, the piano-focused music of Bruce Hornsby, country songs of heartbreak, and the uplifting sound of a gospel choir.
"Music always made sense to me, ever since I was a kid," Jim explained. "Music is a tough business, but it's a great way to express yourself."
There are two events coming up to celebrate the CD release: This Saturday, April 8th, Jim is doing an Unplugged CD Release Show at Smith Bros. Coffee House in Port Washington. Then, on Thursday, May 4th, Jim and the full band will host a special fundraising Release Party for Casa Guadalupe in West Bend at the Ozaukee County Pavilion in Cedarburg. Casa Guadalupe is a non-profit serving the large Hispanic population in Washington County. This past winter, the center was vandalized; the money raised from this event will go to repairs at the center.
The well-known children's book author, Barbara Joosse, of Cedarburg was once a little girl. Well, of course she was, but she was also one of those little, little girls, who dreamed of a big friend who could protect her. This little girl idea became the inspiration for a series of books about Girl and her friend, Dragon, and their adventures together. Now, the first three books in the series has inspired a World Premier Musical with First Stage in Milwaukee, which is named for the first book in the series, Lovabye Dragon.
"It's so out of the box and so full of energy," said Barbara, when describing the musical. "It shimmers in magic."
For the past three years, First Stage Artistic Director, Jeff Frank, Nathan Meckel of the band Happy Racers, and Barbara have worked together to create the musical, which opens on January 21st at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center in Milwaukee. Not only did Barbara write the books, but she also co-wrote the lyrics with Nathan, who she has worked with in the past.
"First Stage is really an incubator theater," Barbara explained. "Jeff and I wanted to make it so anyone could do the play, with any budget. After its premier here, it's going to travel."
Before the musical even opened, it won the 2017 Jim Henson Foundation Family Grant for the creation of Dragon, who is a 12 foot puppet, as well as tabletop and shadow puppets used in the musical, created by Brandon Kirkham, Scenic and Puppet Designer. Since 1982, the Jim Henson Foundation has made over 850 grants for the development and presentation of new works of contemporary American puppet theater.
Barbara and the Happy Racers will be participating in a related event at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center on Thursday, January 19th at 6 p.m.: A Beginning With No End. The evening will feature book readings from Barbara, followed by a concert for families with The Happy Racers. Tickets are just $5.
Lovabye Dragon runs through February 19th at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street in Milwaukee. The performance is geared towards children ages 3-7 years old. Tickets are $14, and may be purchased at www.firststage.org or by calling (414) 267-2961.
Around Port Washington and beyond, John Reichert is known for the beautiful and decadent chocolate art that he creates for The Chocolate Chisel, which he owns with his wife, Elizabeth MacCrimmon. Long before he worked with chocolate, though, John worked with pewter.
"I'm a sculpture artist, but sculptures take a long time," John laughed. In 1988, he paid for all of the machinery he needed with his first pewter order from Usingers, and a business was born. John has made dozens of pewter ornaments for the holidays over the years, many of which can be purchased in the store, as well as other custum pewter orders.
In addition to art, John is also passionate about his hometown, so when the city took responsibility for its iconic, art deco lighthouse earlier this year, John jumped at the chance to use his skills to help raise money for the repairs and maintenance needed for Port's most photographed and recognized structure.
The pewter ornament that John created, which is for sale at The Chocolate Chisel, as well as various other Port Washington businesses, sells for $20, and all of the proceeds will go to Port's Lighthouse. Unlike John's other ornaments, the lighthouse can stand on its own.
"Not everybody wants an ornament, and this is something I think will sell year round," John explained. "Tourists will buy it as a momento."
John is no stranger to donating his art for fundraising; in fact, he's done it dozens of times with pewter ornaments, and also with custum designed chocolate bars. In fact, he has already designed a lighthouse chocolate bar, which may also be used for fundraising ongoing fundraising efforts.
If you're looking for a gift that says "Port Washington" this holiday season, and a gift that gives back to the community, look no further. Of course, if you're still not sure if it's enough, you could always include a little chocolate.
Although it has taken many months to gain traction on regular news media outlets, the general public is finally becoming aware of the construction of a massive oil pipeline being built to bring crude oil from North Dakota all the way to Illinois. The controversial project has stalled where it is supposed to cross the Missouri River, on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where over 100 Native American tribes, along with many supporters, have come together to protect the water, both for their own people, and the millions of people downstream who depend on this water source. Among the supporters is Cedarburg native and CHS graduate, Alex Kubala, who has been "Standing with Standing Rock" since July at the Oceti Sakowin Camp.
Alex's relationship with the Native tribes began years ago with his interest in herbal medicine, which led him to study with Native healers throughout the US, as well as in Mexico. "He was even adopted as a nephew into an Anishinaabe tribe in Wausau," said Alex's father, Tom Kubala, of Kubala Washatko Architects in Cedarburg. "He's a remarkable kid." Tom and his wife, Patty, still reside in the house Alex and his father built on Columbia Road in Cedarburg.
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL, as it is called) is being built by a company called Energy Transfer Partners, and was originally proposed to go through Bismarck, North Dakota; however, residents of the community did not want the possibility of their water being contaminated; a valid concern, considering there have been 5 massive pipeline leaks or explosions in our country in the past 6 years, and thousands of minor leaks, costing billions in cleanup and untold environmental damage. Instead, the pipeline was rerouted through the Sioux's treaty land, without the consent of the tribe. In response, Native tribes and supporters from across the country gathered at the construction site, forming a camp they've named the Sacred Stone Camp, in an attempt to block the construction, and causing friction between pipeline workers and water protectors. Then, on Thursday, October 27th, a group of around 200 militarized police forced their way into the camp and began to arrest water protectors; Alex was among them.
"I was standing in a prayer circle," explained Alex, "and the police came through the front lines. They struck me with a baton and pulled me behind their line; hog-tied me, stole my shoes and necklaces, and brought us in." Alex's hand was broken during the arrest, but he was put in jail without treatment, along with about 140 others who are now facing felony charges of conspiracy to endanger by fire, engaging in a riot, and being a public nuisance. Thankfully, an anonymous donor paid the bail for all 140 water protectors, and Alex was able to return to the camp.
"We feared something like that might happen," said Tom. "We didn't hear about it until three days after he was released. You can imagine how that felt, as his parents, to hear what had happened."
Alex insists that he will remain at the camp until the end. "They need to be held accountable," Alex said of the police, government, and the company behind the project. "They're basically acting like a police state. This is treaty land, and they need to acknowledge that."
Earlier this week, President Obama put a halt to construction in order to give time to review the project, though water protectors fear that Energy Transfer Partners may continue the construction without permission, as they are contractually obligated to complete the pipeline by the end of the year. The construction delays have cost the company millions, already; should it continue to be delayed into the new year, it is expected that the project will be abandoned. In the meantime, the Sacred Stone Camp continues to grow, and protests are erupting across the country on a scale that can no longer be ignored. Standing Rock has become a symbol of Native, environmental, and minority justice.
Winter is descending on Standing Rock, and the water protectors could use items such as sleeping bags for extreme cold and wool hats, gloves, and blankets; see the Sacred Stone Camp Amazon Wish List for a full listing. If you would like to make a monetary donation to Alex's camp, click here.
"Alex was a troublemaker when he was young," Tom said. "He doesn't back down; he never has, but he's a become a very respectful, prayerful, and resourceful person. I love my son."
Local Author, Sara Dahmen, Turns Her Historic Literature Into Real-Life Business Venture
A year ago today, local author, Sara Dahmen, released her first novel, Doctor Kinney's Housekeeper. A first place winner of the Chanticleer Book Review for Women's Historical Fiction, the story is set in the Dakota Territories in the late 1800's, and nearly everything important in the book takes place in the kitchen. The story, along with a love of cooking and a strong entrepreneurial spirit, inspired Dahmen's latest venture: a line of historically-inspired cookware called Housekeeper Crockery.
"I wanted to go one step beyond the food discussion," said Dahmen. "We're buying organic, local, sustainable food, but when we bring it home, what do we cook it in? Cookware made in China with a bazillion chemicals in it."
Housekeeper Crockery consists of a line of cast iron and copper pots and pans, ceramic bowls, wooden spoons, and cotton towels that are entirely made in America. In fact, the cast iron is poured in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, and the pottery comes from Rowe Pottery in Cambridge, Wisconsin.
Dahmen has been very hands on in the cast iron and copper process, learning traditional methods from tin and copper smiths, and talking shop with anyone she can.
"Cookware is a man's world, but the information sharing has been wonderful. Even competitors share, because they want a really good product; it's more than just making money. These products are meant to last a lifetime."
The venture has created work for small artisans across the country -- in some cases, workers are being re-taught skills in order to make the cookware. When searching for a place where the line of copper cookware could be made, Dahmen learned that copper pots have not been made en masse in the United States for 90 years.
In keeping with her commitment to local, Dahmen is also working with local businesses to sell her products. "I'd rather support mom and pop boutiques, and keep the jobs here. Integrity and transparency are important to me."
Housekeeper Crockery can be found at Blue Heron Artisan's Marketplace in Port Washington, as well as the Rustic Palate in Cedarburg, who will be having a product launch party for the line on May 21st from 11-4.
Interestingly, the book that inspired the cookware line has inspired another book: a request for a non-fiction book about cookware, which will be Dahmen's next project.
Not only is Dahmen a writer and a business owner, she is also a successful event planner and a mother to three children under the age of 6. This begs the question: How does she do it?
Dahmen smiled. "I'm lucky to have a very supportive husband."
Late last summer, a new women's clothing store opened at 215 N. Franklin St. in downtown Port Washington: Moda Bella, an urban chic boutique. Now, having survived a winter on the lake, the shop is really beginning to put down roots, inviting the community in with a series of classes and events.
Owner, Michele Piechowski, has made a serious commitment to forward-thinking fashion, not only in the trendy, upscale look of the items she carries, but in the way -- and the where -- in which they were made. Most of the clothing and accessories within this lakeside boutique with an east-side feel are Fair Trade (meaning the workers were paid a living wage and provided good working conditions) or Made in the USA; a rare claim for a clothing store.
In fact, one of Michele's favorite lines this spring is from Mata Traders in Chicago, who utilize Fair Trade Co-ops in India and Nepal to make their clothing.
"I just love these garments," Michele said. "They're made of 100% cotton, of which most of is hand-stamped or hand embroidered. These co-ops pay fair wages, and offer daycare, healthcare and empowerment to the women working with them. I love that these pieces are made by one woman from start to finish, without line or piece work."
Beyond clothing and accessories, Michele has had several workshops in the store that were so well-received, she's doing them again! On Monday, April 11th, at 6 p.m., there will be a Glass Painting Class in the store. On Sunday, April 24th, at 2 p.m., there will be a Canvas Painting Class. On Thursday, May 5th, at 5:30, she'll have the second Pillow and Canvas Tote Painting Class, just in time for Mother's Day gifts. Her Pallet Class has been so popular, she added a 4th one on May 9th at 5:30 p.m. (look for the sign up on April 8th!).
Moda Bella will be closed the 2nd through the 7th for Michele to take a much-needed break, but she'll be back in time for Port's annual Ladies Night Out on April 14th from 4-8 p.m.
Moda Bella has something for all ages of women. In fact, they are currently building a special Juniors section for teens, with the same, fashion-forward focus. The boutique is open Wednesday through Saturday, but the hours can be a bit erratic, so it's best to call before you visit: (262) 261-5105.
We at Ozaukee Living Local truly appreciate Michele's commitment to being a local business in the truest sense, and wish her the best of success!
Anyone familiar with the music scene around Oz may well have heard of the Ozaukee County Jam Band. Since the 1970's, the band has incorporated numerous musicians around the area, playing rock and blues to audiences of all ages.
At the core of the band is Michael Sipin, a guitarist who once hailed from Oz, but now resides in West Bend, and who has been in too many bands and played with too many musicians over too many years to count. What makes the Jam Band interesting, though, is the family ties.
Michael's son, Mike, was just a baby when the OCJB made their first appearance in the early 70's. Michael's brother, Tom, played bass guitar in the band, and little Mike had his first crack at a drum set during a break in one of the band's performances, when he was just a toddler. The crowd applauded, and a drummer was born.
Back in 2000, the OCJB reunited at the encouragement of one of its prior members, Jim Bohn, from Grafton, and even released a CD of original music entitled Old Dog, New Tricks.
Now, the band is back together again, with three of its original members: Michael Sipin on guitar, Tom Sipin on bass, and Paul Fonder on sax and flute. This time around, though, Michael's son, Mike Sipin, will be on the drums. Furthermore, one of their first shows will be for a good cause in the county they're named for.
This Sunday, March 6th, the Ozaukee County Jam Band will play for a Mel's Charities Pig Roast Event to benefit the Grafton American Legion Rose Harms Post, as well as other Ozaukee nonprofits. The event will take place at the Grafton American Legion (1540 13th Avenue in Grafton) from 1-5. The band will be playing from 2-4, and Mel's delicious pulled pork sandwiches will be available to purchase.
As Mel's Charities says, "Great times for Great Causes." This event is sure to be a great one - don't miss it!
Port Washington resident, James Meyer, has been taking award-winning photographs of Ozaukee County and beyond for several years. You may have seen his work on local Milwaukee weather channels, or in several local publications, including this one. He has recently been chosen to be an MPTV featured artist for the 2016 Channel 10 Great TV Auction Poster Collection - an honor that will bring his work to the national stage.
The Auction, which premiered in 1969, is used as a fundraiser for Milwaukee Public Television. Participation gives local businesses, artists, and organizations the chance for major television exposure, as donations of gift certificates and products are auctioned off to raise money for programming and technology for MPTV.
"MPTV will be showing video segments during the auction every time my prints are being offered, as well as on MPTV.org, and MPTV social channels," Meyer said.
The auction begins on April 29th, and Meyer will be filming video shoots next month for the event.
This Saturday, January 23rd, MPTV will host an Indoor Winter Farmers Market at their studio (12560 W Townsend St., Brookfield, WI 53005) from 9-1, which is another fundraiser for MPTV.
Meyer, who can often be found at the Port Washington lakefront at sunrise, in search of the perfect shot, had this to say about his adventure with MPTV: "This is a tremendous opportunity that I’m grateful for. To me, photography isn’t taking a picture, it’s capturing a moment to treasure. It’s creating a pathway to a memory. It’s realizing the future will come. Capturing images of the now shape how you’ll see all that you love today… tomorrow."
You can see more of Meyer's work at: http://jamesmeyerphoto.com, as well as some of his recent photos below.