Summer 2018
Community Advocates Connections
Happy summer!

Warm weather has finally arrived, and with the sunshine comes a renewed commitment to find innovative ways to serve our clients and community. As you'll see in this newsletter, we're launching new initiatives and reinvigorating longstanding programs and services so that all members of our community can live their lives with dignity and hope.

That's a tall order, but with the support of partners like you, we can do it.

In gratitude,
Andi Elliott
Chief Executive Officer
Community Advocates
Community Advocates Public Policy Institute's 10th Anniversary Celebration Sets the Stage for New Housing Initiative
On April 26,  Community Advocates Public Policy Institute  celebrated our 10th anniversary and recommitted our efforts to reduce disparities and enhance well-being throughout our community.
The event was headlined by Richard Rothstein, author of  The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America , and local historian Reggie Jackson, Head Griot of America's Black Holocaust Museum.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett declared April 26, 2018, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute Day throughout Milwaukee.
The celebration also served as the formal kickoff of PPI's new  Healthy Housing Initiative , a multifaceted effort to improve housing affordability and quality and public health in Milwaukee and beyond.
On a more personal note, Community Advocates CEO Andi Elliott and Public Policy Institute Deputy Director Kari Lerch presented the Public Policy Institute's Founding Director, David Riemer, with the Founder's Award for his lifelong dedication to improving the lives of disadvantaged individuals.

Community Advocates Public Policy Institute has had a lively 10 years! In our first decade, we helped to launch Transitional Jobs in Wisconsin, advocate for mental health parity in insurance coverage and effective implementation of the Affordable Care Act, developed a strategy to cut poverty in half, and continue to lead initiatives dedicated to preventing drug abuse, violence, teen pregnancy, and tobacco use in our community. Watch our video to learn more about our work.
Milwaukee Women's Center Welcomes New State Grant
On June 20, Community Advocates hosted a meet and greet to highlight the importance of supporting families who are experiencing homelessness.

Our Milwaukee Women's Center , The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County and Family Promise of Washington County are 3 of 10 recipients of the state's new Homeless Case Management Services Grant . The grant will help us provide more services for residents in our Family Support Center who are experiencing homelessness and moving to independence.

Even better, the grant will allow us to follow the progress of our residents for six months after they leave the Center.

"What we've seen is that those first six months are critical to stabilizing families back in the community," said Community Advocates CEO Andi Elliott. "If we can provide that ongoing support they will be more likely to be successful."

Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and State Senator Alberta Darling were on hand to learn more about our work.

"We know that housing insecurity and homelessness are huge barriers to big success," Kleefisch said. "And that's why this grant program is so near and dear to my heart and so important."
Founder's Day Recommits Community Advocates to a More Equitable Community
Each April, we honor the life and service of Ramon Wagner, Community Advocates' founder, with a Founder's Day celebration. Ramon believed that each person deserved to be treated with dignity, no matter what their life circumstances. Ramon's vision has guided Community Advocates for the past 40-plus years.
This year, our Founder's Day celebrations were held during our two all-staff meetings on April 25. That also happened to be Denim Day, the international public awareness campaign to support and believe survivors of sexual assault. Community Advocates staff wore denim to show their support for survivors. Staff from the Milwaukee Women's Center's Substance Abuse Treatment POWER program brought along posters created by their clients who are learning to live healthy, independent, substance-free lives.
The next day, Community Advocates staff participated in YWCA of Southeast Wisconsin's Stand Against Racism campaign, during which community members pledge to eliminate racism in all forms and work toward a more fair, inclusive society. 
The Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Team
Is Always Ready to Help  
While many people think of the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program as a heating-season-only program, the truth is that the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Team works all year to help low-income residents who want to save money on their energy bills and make repairs to their homes or furnaces. 

Eligible Milwaukee County residents may qualify for additional benefits year-round to reduce their utility bills, including:

  • Emergency crisis assistance: help if you have no heat, received a disconnection notice, or are out of fuel and can’t afford to buy more
  • Weatherization services: insulating attics, walls, and floors; installing energy-efficient lighting and thermostats; reducing air leakage and learning money-saving tips
  • Switching from oil to natural gas: save money in the long run by changing to natural gas for free
  • Furnace/heating system replacement: emergency assistance if a furnace or boiler stops functioning
  • Disconnection help: emergency benefits for qualified We Energies customers
  • Payment plan setup: prevent disconnection by learning more about your payment options 

You can learn more about these additional benefits by downloading our fact sheets in English and en Espanol .

Check out our event calendar below to find out when the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Team will be in your neighborhood this summer.

To learn more about how you can cut your energy bills or to schedule an appointment, call the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Line at 414-270-4653 or go to . If you’re calling after hours, dial 2-1-1. If you live outside of Milwaukee County, call 1-866-432-8947 or go to to learn more about how you can reduce your energy bills.
Fast Facts about the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program
  • Community Advocates and UMOS partner with Milwaukee County to deliver energy assistance benefits to Milwaukee County residents.
  • The Heating Season runs from October 1 to May 15. Anyone with a utility expense that meets our guidelines can qualify for a one-time annual benefit. In addition, assistance is available year-round for weatherization services or if you are facing a disconnection or have a non-working furnace.
  • During the 2017-18 heating season, the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program has already processed more than 63,000 applications, issuing $34.9 million in benefits and $2.7 in crisis assistance to help families avoid disconnections.
  • Need more information? Want to set up an appointment to apply? Just call 414-270-4-MKE (270-4653) to speak to an Energy Assistance Representative or go to You can also stop by one of our six convenient locations throughout Milwaukee County.
Public Policy Institute Organizes Innovative Employment Fair
for Returning Citizens
During this time of low unemployment, businesses are struggling to find work-ready employees. Yet there's a pool of workers who are ready to succeed but are often overlooked -- individuals who have left incarceration. That's why the Milwaukee Reentry Council , coordinated by Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, helped to organize the first Southeast Wisconsin Reentry Employment Expo at the Cousins Center on May 17. The expo connected employers looking for workers with the nonprofits, government agencies, and members of the faith community who are supporting these returning citizens so that they succeed in the workplace in the long run.

WUWM stopped by to talk to attendees and learn more about employment challenges in the area. You can listen to the report here.
Community Support for the Milwaukee Women's Center
The adults, families, and kids served by the Milwaukee Women’s Center got lots of love from the community this spring. Once again, Two Men and a Truck collected essential items for shelter residents as part of their "Movers for Moms" campaign and delivered their gifts for Mother's Day. In addition, the Milwaukee Area Science Advocates (MASA) hosted a Mother's Day Weekend Garden Event at the shelter on Saturday, May 12. Shelter residents enjoyed a fun day that included brunch and activities and crafts for the kids. They also built and planted garden beds at the shelter. MASA members are frequent visitors at the shelter and we're grateful for their care and attention.
The organizers of Riverwest FemFest , now in its third year, also gifted the residents and clients of the Milwaukee Women's Center with some of the proceeds of their eight-day event, which ran from May 27 to June 3. The festival provides a platform for local female performers and artists who are traditionally underrepresented and raises funds for organizations that support and empower women and children. This year, donations were raised for the Milwaukee Women's Center, Casa Maria, and Courage MKE. In fact, they're still accepting donations! We're grateful for their continued support.
In June, more than a dozen members of the downtown Milwaukee office of Deloitte volunteered to spend their Impact Day making the center more welcoming to residents. They scrubbed the kitchen, sanitized toys, organized the pantry, cleaned windows, weeded and landscaped, and got the outdoor play area ready for the summer.

The Deloitte group has a long history with the Milwaukee Women's Center, thanks to Deloitte alum Sandra Samse, who serves on the board of Community Advocates and is a former board member of the Milwaukee Women's Center. (Sandy even helped on Impact Day this year!) Deloitte employees had previously volunteered at our former facility and this was their first visit to our new shelter.

Deloitte's Lisa Sherman, who organized this year's group, said her colleagues' work at the center is an outgrowth of a Deloitte initiative to improve the lives of women. "For us, it's always trying to find a wide variety of ways to give back to the community," Sherman said. "I enjoyed the years we spent at your other center and this came immediately to mind because it has such an impact."
Interested in organizing a volunteer team to help Community Advocates' clients? Contact Jeri Kavanaugh at 414-270-2984 or .
Ken Germanson Receives Honorary Ph.D.
We send our hearty congratulations to Community Advocates alum Ken Germanson -- or, to be precise -- Dr. Ken Germanson. Ken recently received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from UW-Milwaukee , a university he had a part in establishing. Ken is a passionate social justice warrior who joined the staff of Community Advocates at age 62 as his "post-retirement job" and wound up staying for 24 years. He put his stamp on HealthWatch, the Child Abuse Prevention Network, the Milwaukee Brighter Futures Initiative, and the Coming Together Partnership to End Gun Violence, among other projects, before officially retiring in 2016. Ken inspired our staff and clients and we are glad to see that he's getting the recognition he so richly deserves.
WI, We Need to Talk
The state Department of Children and Families has just launched ‘WI, We Need to Talk’ to spur greater awareness and discussion of youth sex trafficking. The main goal of the campaign is to inform the public that sex trafficking of Wisconsin youth is an issue in urban, suburban, rural, and Tribal communities throughout the state. The website includes resources on warning signs of youth sex trafficking, social media posts, and information on reporting this crime.
Celebrating Success
Michael: From Homelessness to Healing
Imagine dealing with a spinal injury and the many grueling surgeries you must have to be able to walk again and live without pain. Now imagine recuperating from those surgeries while you are experiencing homelessness.
That’s the unimaginable situation Michael found himself in a few years ago.
Michael has packed a lot into his life. He’s quick to laugh, intelligent, and has impeccable manners, peppering his conversations with “yes ma’am” and plenty of “thank you’s” and concern for those who are less fortunate than him.
Michael served in the US Marines and saw the world. After leaving the military, he lived in Haiti for three and a half years while studying to become a priest. He worked as a flight attendant for the next 16 and a half years, when he traveled around the globe again.
But after the airline laid him off his life took an unexpected turn: Michael was unemployed, with a spinal injury, and without a home in a city he’d never lived in before -- Milwaukee.

Isabelle Found Her Angel When Applying for Energy Assistance
Isabelle was at her wits’ end. She and her husband had just called it quits. On top of that, he left her with an outstanding We Energies bill in his name. She agreed to take over the balance, but had no success putting the bill in her name.

“I was in a hole and only saw the dark,” she said.

But Isabelle saw the light when she found Terrece and the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program.

“Terrece played the part of my angel,” Isabelle said. “It was so overwhelming to me and not only did she take the time to listen but she helped me. Because I didn’t know what to do. I never went for Energy Assistance or anything like this. [My ex] always took care of it.”

Kaia Turned a Crisis Into Long-Term Success

Just a few months ago, things weren’t looking so promising for Kaia. The good news was that she was expecting a new baby who’d join two older brothers, all of whom were dearly loved. The bad news is that she didn’t have her own place to bring the new baby home to.
For the past few months, Kaia and her boys, ages 10 and 4, were living with relatives. While she was grateful for their support, it wasn’t the kind of permanent home she wanted to raise her family in. She wanted her boys and the baby to have enough room to sleep and play in, a place she could afford where they could set down roots so the boys wouldn’t have to change schools, a place where all of them could feel safe and welcome.
Finding a good apartment wasn’t a big dream, but it seemed to be out of reach -- until Kaia sought help from  Community Advocates’ Housing Department  in December 2017.
Kaia qualified for Community Advocates' Siemer Family Homeless Prevention and Case Management Program, which helps families achieve financial goals and maintain a stable housing situation so that children can remain in school, giving them the best chance of academic success.

Ways to Give
Thank You for Your 48 Hours of Giving Contributions
Thank you for your wonderful generosity during our 48 Hours of Giving campaign, which we held from March 27 to March 29. Thanks to your support, we raised an astounding $28,714 for our community members who need a roof over their head, heat during the wintertime, a safe place after surviving domestic violence, and advocacy when they are threatened with eviction. We would also like to thank our match sponsors, Direct Supply and our wonderful board of directors. 

Be a Hero!
Your donations will help us save and change lives each and every day. Giving is easy:
  • You can make a donation online by visiting our website.
  • You can contribute on a monthly basis.
  • You can donate shares of stock.
  • You can designate Community Advocates or the Milwaukee Women's Center division as a beneficiary of your will or estate.
To learn more about investing in our clients, services, and community, please contact Kris Uhen, Development Director, at (414) 405-6054. Thank you!
Franklin Students Share their Love of Books
In May, the second grade class of Southwood Glen Elementary School in Franklin donated books to the children served by the Milwaukee Women’s Center. The students also recommended some of their favorite titles. In 2017, MWC’s Family Support Center Emergency Shelter provided safe housing, domestic violence services, and assistance to 337 children. The MWC’s staff sends a big thank you to the Southwood Glen students for their kindness and generosity.
Connecting with the Board
Jim Liedtke Views Community Advocates from Two Perspectives
Jim Liedtke has lived an unusual life. The Milwaukee native loves being outdoors -- so much so that he became a trapper around Wisconsin who never quite settled indoors. Eventually he quit trapping professionally and lived in a tent on a relative’s land. After some upheaval, he wound up back in Milwaukee, still living outdoors. This time, under a bridge on Milwaukee’s South Side.

Living without a permanent home for ten years “was always stressful,” he explained. “You might think you got a good night's sleep, but not really, because you’ve always got one ear open listening for something. Bad things happen out there, so you have to be aware of that. The level of stress is way up when you're living on the edge like that all the time.”

Fortunately, Liedtke became involved with Unity Lutheran Church in Bay View, which he used as his home address. The pastor there passed on a message to Liedtke: “Meet Don Moses at St. James’ breakfast program.”

Liedtke wasn’t sure what that was all about, but the encounter with Don would change his life.

“We went to the third floor [of an apartment building] and he said, ‘What do you think?,'” Liedtke recalled. “He threw the keys down on the table. The place was already furnished. Whoever was doing the planning for this thought of everything. There was cookware. There were towels. Everything. He threw the keys down on the table and said, ‘I’ll be back in an hour and we’ll do some paperwork.’”

Not only did Don sign up Liedtke for  Community Advocates’ Project Bridge permanent supportive housing program  -- complete with a furnished apartment, health care, income, food benefits, and regular meetings with a case manager -- but in 2011 Liedtke would join Community Advocates board of directors as the board’s consumer representative.

“When I first joined the board, I was in awe just being in the same room as these people and little by little I got comfortable with it,” Liedtke said. “The one thing that sort of impressed me from the get go is that I get to see how all of [the programs are] developed and brought forward. It’s not just being in the Project Bridge program, but being on the board you get to see how all of that is put together.”

Liedtke, who understands Community Advocates from the perspectives of a consumer and a board strategist, says our work is truly life-altering.

“Community Advocates itself, its mission, is changing the fabric of society,” Liedtke said. “It’s changing the way people think. It’s amazing.”
Advice from the Advocates
Making Your In-Kind Donations Count
It’s always tempting to empty out your dresser drawers and closets and donate all of your castoffs to Community Advocates’ clients. Of course, we’re always grateful for your generous donations and have seen how these items can improve our clients' lives.

But Jeri Kavanaugh, who oversees Community Advocates’ donations and our Bottomless Closet, has some advice to ensure that your donated items are being put to their best use.

“We have a limited amount of storage space so we really appreciate receiving donations that our clients need right away,” Kavanaugh said. “If you aren’t sure if Community Advocates can use your donations, I’m happy to answer your questions and help you find the best place for your items.”

Here’s some advice from Kavanaugh to make sure your donated items will be put toward their highest use:

  • Put yourself in our clients’ shoes. If you had been living without a proper home, what would you need to move into an apartment? You’d need basic housewarming supplies like dishes, pots and pans, cleaning supplies, towels, pillows, and bedding. “Our Project Bridge and Autumn West supportive housing programs provide these items to our residents at no cost, so we’re always looking for donated home furnishing items to help them move into an apartment that’s all set up for them,” Kavanaugh said.

  • Remember the kids. Community Advocates has a lot of contact with children. The Milwaukee Women’s Center is home to 30 to 50 children a month, and many of our clients bring their children or grandchildren to their appointments at all of our locations. “We go through tons of crayons, paper, coloring books, sidewalk chalk, school and art supplies, and toys,” Kavanaugh said. “If you can spare some, please send them to me.”

  • Men need extra support. Our Autumn West and Homeless Outreach Nursing Center work with people who are or have been living on the streets -- most of whom are men. “These men need the basics -- new men’s underwear, socks, T-shirts and casual shirts, in all sizes, from Small to XX Large,” Kavanaugh said. 

  • Think outside the box. Some specialty items are difficult to source through donations. Autumn West recently received a patio furniture set (pictured above), which the residents love. “We’re currently looking for a washing machine, men’s steel-toe boots, a boom box, bikes, men’s shoes, new or nearly new sleeping bags, and a rolling utility cart to help one of our clients do her shopping,” Kavanaugh said.

  • Disposable? We’ll take it. “Our clients need a steady supply of everyday essentials like toilet paper, tissue, paper towels, soap, things like that,” Kavanaugh said. “FoodShare doesn’t cover these items, so our very low-income clients need to pay for them out of their own pocket.”

Questions about donating? Contact Jeri Kavanaugh at or 414-270-2984.
Summer 2018 Calendar
July 3: On Senior Fest Day , a ll seniors (60+) get free admission to Summerfest on Tuesday, July 3, from noon to 4 p.m., thanks to Direct Supply! Show ID at the gates when you enter. Once you're on the Summerfest grounds, enjoy senior-friendly music, performances by the Direct Supply Golden Idol winners, games, activities, and vendors. Look for the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance team, who will explain how you can cut your energy bills and possibly qualify for other benefits.
July 4: Independence Day: All Community Advocates offices will be closed, but our 24/7 sites will remain open.
July 20: Empowerment Coalition of Milwaukee Workshop, Special Topic: Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation; United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, 225 W. Vine St., Milwaukee, 9 a.m. to noon. Register here .
July 21: Energy Assistance Outreach at The Garfield Avenue Blues, Jazz, Gospel & Arts Festival . This neighborhood celebration features a Youth Talent Show, outstanding stages of live music, and a variety of entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. The Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Team will be there between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to talk about benefits that can help you lower your utility bills, get repairs done, and stay connected.
July 30: Milwaukee Record's Roast of Milwaukee will be held at Club Garibaldi, 2501 S. Superior St., Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Women's Center will receive a percentage of the event's proceeds, as well as donated toiletries and non-perishable food items. Watch our Facebook page for details.
August 15: Energy Assistance Outreach at Community Vibes Concert at Brown Deer Village Park, 4800 W. Green Brook Drive, Brown Deer, 6 to 8:30 p.m. David Gerald will perform.
August 29: The Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition will mark International Overdose Awareness Day with a special event. Watch for details at This coalition is coordinated by Community Advocates Public Policy Institute.
September 3: Labor Day: All Community Advocates offices will be closed, but our 24/7 sites will remain open.
September 21: Empowerment Coalition of Milwaukee Workshop, Special Topic: Utility Services & Energy Assistance; United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, 225 W. Vine St., Milwaukee, 9 a.m. to noon. Register here .

We're always adding events to our online calendar. Bookmark it here.
Community Advocates
2018 Board of Directors
President: Sheree Dallas Branch | Public Relations Consultant
Vice President: Jodi Wire | We Energies
Treasurer: Sandra Samse | Johnson Keland Management
Secretary: Bryan House | Foley & Lardner, LLP

Board Members
Marquette Baylor | Aurora Health Care
Timothy Charek | Community Volunteer
Anne DeLeo | Community Volunteer
Valerie Gabriel | Community Volunteer
Dr. Stephen Hargarten | Medical College of Wisconsin
Erin Henry | Northwestern Mutual
Betsy Hoylman | Northwestern Mutual
Gary Ingram | Igary Events
Moriah Iverson | Medical College of Wisconsin
Sharon Jordan | Direct Supply
Pamela Klein | Fresh Coast Partners, LLC
Jim Liedtke | Community Volunteer
Esther Shin | Urban Strategies
Kate Venne | Brady Corporation
Lisa Kaiser | Community Advocates | 414-270-2999  | |