For many years now, members have been meeting on the last Sunday of every month at Grand Avenue Club. The group was founded to accommodate employed members who were unable to come to GAC from Monday to Friday because of their work schedules. Facilitated each month by our executive director, Rachel Forman, the group was designed to enable employed members to sustain their ties to the Clubhouse while being employed out in the community.
The acronym for the group is "PIE," and that was how we referred to it. Intended for "People Independently Employed," that was its full name.

As the years passed, we gradually opened the group up to GAC members who were curious about working, interested in working... or working! We have been casting a wide net. Participants now include newcomers with a curiosity about employment and little or no employment experience, members working via Transitional Employment or Supported Employment, and an impressive number of members who have gone from our Work-Ordered Day, to Transitional or Supported Employment on to long-lasting Independent Employment.

PIE has convinced us that members need not be doing the same thing in order to be very helpful to each other. GAC colleagues inspire each other, help each other with the inevitable issues and dilemmas associated with any paid employment situation, and often offer sage advice.

Our most recent PIE meeting took place this past Sunday, June 26. It drew 14 members and 4 staff to GAC on a sunny Sunday. In addition to Rachel, this meeting attracted 3 other staff members with a strong commitment to GAC paid employment: Ben Holt, Joe Schultz, and Jenny Teuscher.

Members spoke compellingly about the value of PIE.

GAC member William Schram, a long-term member independently employed at the Federal Courthouse, said, "I come every month. With my schedule I can only be here on Sundays. This group has always helped me get my work worries off my chest."

Beth Warrington, typically employed, but right now in between employment gigs, said, "Whether I'm working or not, I am very interested in hearing about other people's employment experiences."

GAC member Barry Duffek, employed for 7 years as an Administrative Assistant at RitzHolman CPAs, hasn't been able to come to GAC much. As a generous supporter of GAC, he attended last week's Grand Event as he has for many years. Barry is enthusiastic about joining PIE because "I know myself. If I don't have a reason to come down to GAC I will just isolate. This group will be great for me."

Shelby Manuel, who has worked for years at a variety of employment sites including Marquette University and UWM, said that although he is not currently employed and considers himself retired, his jobs have strengthened him. Over the years, GAC's paid employment program has helped him "to raise my grandsons and be a better man."

Angela Burian, one of our youngest members, is newly employed at First Baptist Church in West Allis and spoke about how much she valued listening to other members and how helpful she found sharing stories and issues about working.

Frances Holman, an employee of Troubadour Bakery at Colectivo, spoke about some personal challenges she has experienced while she has been working there. She lamented that she had had a hard time connecting with some of her support services, but always knew she could trust GAC and always gets help at GAC--with work and also with other matters.

The consensus at this meeting was that we should encourage all GAC members who are interested in employment to come to PIE and that we should change the name of the group to


We will continue to have a wide variety of discussions about work issues. We will continue to support each others' goals. We will continue to listen carefully to each other when we speak of disappointments and challenges. We will continue to help members strategize. We will continue to gather around the big table on the first floor of our Clubhouse on the last Sunday of every month and focus on each other.

If you know someone who has an avid interest in paid employment and qualifies for membership at Grand Avenue Club, please encourage that person to fill out an application at our website linked below.
Barry Duffek at RitzHolman CPAs.
William Schram at the Federal Court House on Wisconsin Avenue
Frances Holman working at GAC's Water St. Boutique
Shelby Manuel working in GAC's Retail & Business Management Unit.

The Colleagues of Grand Avenue Club