Above: GAC colleagues on the first Welcome Wednesday back excitedly painting vibrant one-of-a-kind designs on ceramic plates to be used in the Culinary Unit!
Sometimes traditions come about in response to an immediate necessity.

Such is the case with Grand Avenue Club's WELCOME WEDNESDAY. Some time in 2014, we became aware that GAC's average daily attendance was considerably lower on the last days of every month. When we asked our members' why this was so, they told us that they typically ran out of money by the fourth week of the month.

GAC always stayed open late on Wednesday nights. With a nutritional breakfast, lunch, and dinner served on that day, we decided to establish something new. All 3 meals would be complimentary to GAC members on that day. We dubbed the day "WELCOME WEDNESDAY" and made sure that everyone knew about it.

We shared this decision with our members via outreach calls, cards and e-mails. Many were relieved to learn that 3 nutritious meals awaited them at GAC on the last Wednesday of every month. In addition we arranged for simple "meals-to-go" for members who needed them.

Attendance on WELCOME WEDNESDAYS soared and the day took on a meaning that transcended its very necessary original purpose. WELCOME WEDNESDAY began to feel like a monthly reunion of friends. It became one of the times of the month when we celebrated birthdays, members' completion of Transitional Employment positions, and other good happenings. In addition, we developed a monthly slide show that showed colleagues participating in the work-ordered day, at their paid employment, at school, and at GAC outings. We showed every month's photos at WELCOME WEDNESDAY.

Since March 2020, the onset of pandemic awareness in Milwaukee, there have been no WELCOME WEDNESDAYS...until yesterday, January 26, when we reinstituted the custom. Forty members were at GAC throughout the day, the most freezing day of the year. Twenty-five stayed for dinner.

Given the very very cold weather, lingering pandemic caution, and the icy sidewalk in front of our building, WELCOME WEDNESDAY felt like a cozy refuge for GAC colleagues.

May such coziness endure.
Wanda Jenkins: "Yesterday was my first Welcome Wednesday. I really hope that we can continue this. I love that we can stay a little longer to have a place to go and stay out of the house and the cold. This was awesome. We had three hot meals that were all free and we all stayed late to create plates for the Culinary Unit. . Everyone even stayed late to clean up together. Keep ‘em coming! Keep ‘em coming!"

Walter Heard: "I remember when GAC first started Welcome Wednesdays. I remember sometimes having 60 people for lunch. I saw members that I haven’t seen for years. We would stay for rec and play pool or ping pong, watch movies, make art, or play cards and board games. I always looked forward to those days because not only did I have three good, free meals that day, I got to spend extra time with good friends. Yesterday I spent the day in the Culinary Unit preparing egg breakfast sandwiches, a lunch of venison cheeseburgers, and enchiladas for dinner. It was great and felt like old times."

Glen Satterlund: "When I think about Welcome Wednesday I immediately think about what went in to all the extra food planning, preparation, and setting up for extra seating. This was not a burden but instead something we all looked forward to. Now that we are bringing Welcome Wednesday back, there are new challenges to consider.. We have to think about social distancing, lunch tickets, and other changes. I am hopeful that we can return back to normal activities, but for now I am happy that we at least have started by bringing back Welcome Wednesday. I know some colleagues struggle at the end of the month choosing between bus fare or lunch."
Paul Holmes: "I like Welcome Wednesday because it gives us a chance to get together and share thoughts and memories. Plus it establishes better relationships between colleagues. The most important part of Welcome Wednesday for me is that it never went away, it was just on hiatus. The highlight was its return."

The Colleagues of Grand Avenue Club