Today is an important anniversary. Grand Avenue Club, for the first time in its then 29 year history, closed its doors. Of course, this was in response to the growing fear and ambiguity associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. We kept in close touch with each other, delivered food, and supported each other via phone, Facebook, etc. We then prepared for our re-opening on June 1 by establishing a Covid screening check-in that included temperature taking, measuring all rooms to decide on the maximum capacity of colleagues in each room, transforming our Culinary Unit, making arrangements for regular sanitizing, and a system whereby members could inform us of their presence at GAC so that we would not exceed capacity according to public health guidelines.

All things considered, we have had a good year. Our relationships are strong, our units are filled to capacity, and we have learned to be a community under circumstances that have tested us. In planning this week's message to you, we considered asking GAC colleagues to talk about how they and our community have grown and changed.

Despite our generally positive outlook, many of us have dealt with and continue to deal with loneliness, anxiety, and isolation. For this week's edition of "GAC Reports to the Community," we asked our colleagues, "What have you missed the most in the past year? How have you adjusted to the present reality? What are you looking forward to as Covid restrictions recede?" These are their responses.
Dominic Corl
"I missed doing the work around the Club. I like using the computers and counting the money. Once we opened, there were some changes like signing in and filling out a Covid form and, of course, wearing a mask. I didn't love making these changes, but they were way better than being closed and my being stuck at home. Now, I can get out to do my work and also see my friends."
-Dominic Corl
Jonathon Amaya
"GAC is a precious jewel. I always wanted to see what it was, and now I am able to. To be honest, I didn’t appreciate it until it wasn’t there."
-Jonathon Amaya
Kate Klug & Alex Graber
"I miss "Supper Club" most, and working close with everyone in the kitchen. It’s different to constantly watch yourself to be 6 ft. apart from others, sitting in certain seats, standing in certain places. Some freedoms of our membership are lost. Now, we call and reserve a place in our unit and for lunch. Despite these changes, I continue to come in because this is where my friends are, and my mood is better. It is so much better than being cooped up at home."
-Kate Klug

"I haven’t been able to come in as often. When we had a limit on the number of people allowed at GAC, I wanted members to have the opportunity to be here. It’s for people to have the opportunity to socialize, to have nutritious food, meaningful work and a place to be. Not everyone has the resources to connect virtually. I look forward to the Clubhouse returning to its original culture and all of the excitement!"
-Alex Graber
Mark Coogan
"This is an easy question, what did I miss the most? I missed the people. I missed being around the people I have known for a long time who are nice and friendly and the people that I love. I am grateful that we are open again because I have a place where I feel welcome and I feel safe."
-Mark Coogan
Leroy Doyle
"I have missed the people who I haven’t seen in a while, who I used to see all the time at GAC. I find some members are still scared to leave their homes, but I am not one of them. One day, I hope we will all be in the same place."
-Leroy Doyle
Robert Fondren
"I missed the work, my daily agenda, and taking care of my building. I missed being asked to do something by someone and being able to do it. I miss going to the Milwaukee County Division of Housing to work as much as we did before. Once we re-opened, I had to get used to the new pace of things. I am very happy that GAC is open. I am here every day."
-Robert Fondren
Darren Griffiths
"I miss having a full house of members at GAC because the place felt more lively when lots of people were here. But we’re doing our best."
-Darren Griffiths
Nydia Lopez
"I missed working the most. I missed the opportunity to participate in GAC's TE (Transitional Employment) program that would allow me to go out in the community and work for pay. Now that we are open, I am using all the resources available. I am using the computers in an effort to go back to school and to look for a job. But mostly, it’s the friendships that I come back for."
-Nydia Lopez
Michael Anderson
"I miss our weekend hours. I used to come to GAC on Saturdays and Sundays and I want to do that again as soon as possible."
-Michael Anderson
Joe Schultz
"When GAC closed due to Covid, I missed working side by side with members, unit meetings and going on the lunchtime Wellness Walk with colleagues. I'm proud of how our community responded to the pandemic through it's outreach efforts and I look forward to the day when everyone feels safe to return."
-Joe Schultz
Helen Christus
"Since the pandemic, we have been kind of slow at the Water St. Boutique. I am very glad we opened up despite the pandemic. I’m looking forward to having more customers in the future. I’m also looking forward to seeing more members as we fully re-open. Now that people are getting out, I hope they will come to our store any time from Tuesday through Friday, 11 am-2 pm. We have masks, practice social distancing, and there is new merchandise every day."
-Helen Christus

The Colleagues of Grand Avenue Club